Football News

“The complete package” – Toni Kroos hails Man Utd defender Raphael Varane ahead of World Cup Final

By Harry Edwards

Published: 13:04, 16 December 2022

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos has dubbed Manchester United’s Raphael Varane an awkward defender to play against as he prepares for the World Cup final.

Kroos and Varane were teammates for seven years at Real Madrid and shared the pitch 246 times, with the Frenchman only playing more alongside Karim Benzema and Luka Modric. Varane left Real Madrid for Man Utd in the summer of 2021 and has formed an important part of their defence, while he has also helped France reach Sunday’s World Cup final where they will face Argentina.

France news: Is Raphael Varane the complete defender?

After being an unused substitute in the opening 4-1 win over Australia, Varane has started each of France‘s past five games at the World Cup, keeping a clean sheet in the 2-0 win over Morocco in the semi-final.

It’s form he has carried over from Man Utd, where he has a budding partnership alongside Lisandro Martinez. And Kroos believes Varane’s pace is just one of the things that makes the defender tough to play against.

“He’s incredibly fast. Really one of the fastest team-mates, I would even say,” he told Real Total.

“There were a few quick ones. He’s really incredible. I never really saw anyone run away from him in our time here.

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“He was a solid pillar for us alongside Ramos for many years. He did an outstanding job and is really the complete package.

“He doesn’t do miracles with the ball but is a highly awkward defender to play against. You can’t beat him in the air and, as I said, he’s incredibly fast, so you can’t run away from him either. He’s a good man.”

At the World Cup so far, Varane has averaged 0.88 aerial duels won per 90 minutes and made 0.66 headed clearances. He has also won possession in the defensive third at an average of 2.65 times per 90 minutes, and committed just 0.22 fouls, less busy than he perhaps expected to be given the midfield shield France have ahead of him.

Varane and Martinez could go head-to-head at the weekend, with his Man Utd partner part of Argentina‘s squad but he has only managed two starts. Nevertheless, Martinez has been busier than Varane, averaging 1.79 tackles per 90 to his clubmate’s 0.22 and 3.89 clearances to 2.65. Martinez has also won more aerial duels than Varane at 0.9 per 90 and made more headed clearances at 1.2 per 90.