The similarities are numerous. Both players are entering the last year of their contract. Both players are, obviously, French, both are 28 years old. Both clubs value their player at €80 million. Both clubs would prefer to keep their player, but neither want to lose their man for free in a year’s time.
One difference lies in how much each club wants each player. United are desperate for a player of Varane’s experience and quality to stabilise a leaky defence. Real have coveted Pogba in the past, but his main advocate was former head coach Zinedine Zidane. With Zizou gone, their current priority is a forward – ideally Kylian Mbappe.
Los Blancos know Mbappe won’t come cheap. He, too, is entering the last year of his contract at PSG and they, too, will want to cash in rather than watch him walk away in 2022. But Madrid’s coffers are empty and so they could prefer to sell Varane for cash to help fund a potential Mbappe move.
This, indeed, is the position reported by The Daily Mirror.
‘Real Madrid are reportedly set to reject an offer from Manchester United for Raphael Varane that will include a swap for Paul Pogba,’ they claim, although they go on to cite an article from AS in Spain that does not quite say that.
AS’s actual position was that ‘Real Madrid prefer to sell him and get cash. A barter is not in their plans, because they need money to finance the great operation that they intend, which is none other than Mbappé or Haaland.
‘Either way, if United finally go for Varane, Pogba’s name will inevitably be put on the table.’
However, the ‘what ifs’ in this scenario are many.
What if Mbappe stays at PSG? What if a price simply cannot be agreed for him? Or what if he agrees to wait out his contract and commits to a move to Real next summer? Then Pogba, via the Varane swap, could suddenly become los Merengues’ marquee signing of the summer.
There is also the Mino Raiola factor. Pogba’s agent has admitted many times that his dream is to put one of his big stars into the Madrid squad. He will have a chance next year with Haaland, of course, but he would be very keen to do so with Pogba and replenish his reportedly dodgy offshore bank account in 2021 as well.
The former pizza chef will be pushing for the move, of that there is little doubt, and he often manages to find a way to get what he wants.
Further complications arise from the fact that Varane’s centre-back partner, Sergio Ramos, has also left the club, causing complications to United’s bid for Varane that we explained in a recent article. Both players are reported to prefer a PSG move, and Ramos’s departure could mean that Real will increase their offer to Varane to stay, knowing that they would have to spend that money, that would have been earmarked for Mbappe, on getting a replacement centre back.
Another ingredient in this soup of intrigue: both Ramos and Varane are reported to prefer a move to PSG over a move to United. And United may, or may not, according to which report you read, be interested in Ramos.
So many ifs, ands, buts and maybes. But Mundo Deportivo today report that despite everything, this Varane – Pogba exchange is very much on the cards.
‘The name of Paul Pogba has been ringing in Real Madrid for a long time.
‘[Real were never able to sign him] due to the high price that Manchester United had placed on him, the even asked for 170 million euros, and for having to negotiate with Mino Raiola, Pogba’s agent, with whom Real Madrid did not have very good relations.
‘Real Madrid have an ace up their sleeve if they want to sign Pogba. That ace is Varane. Los Blancos assume that the central defender is going to leave and Manchester United are one of the clubs most interested in him.
’The value that the two clubs give to their players is practically the same, so it cannot be ruled out that there will be an exchange: Varane to Manchester United and Pogba to Real Madrid.’
Interestingly, Mundo are running a poll at the end of the article asking readers who will be getting the better deal if there is a Pogba-Varane exchange. The result at time of going to press: 68% said Madrid will be the winners.
Whether or not it would be a good deal for United, it seems impossible to predict what will happen until key decisions are made that could trigger a domino effect. The one most crucial to this situation is almost certainly whether Mbappe does leave PSG.