Didier Deschamps has handed Liverpool centre-back Ibrahima Konate his first call-up to the France senior squad as a replacement for Raphael Varane.

Manchester United defender Varane sustained a hamstring injury during Les Bleus' 2-1 Nations League defeat to Denmark on Friday, and has had to withdraw from the squad ahead of the next three games.

Kylian Mbappe was also forced off with a knee problem at half-time in the game at the Stade de France, with assistant coach Guy Stephan saying the Paris Saint-Germain star would be assessed.

Konate has had an impressive first season at Liverpool after joining the Premier League side from RB Leipzig last year.

The 23-year-old made 29 appearances in all competitions for Jurgen Klopp's side in 2021-22, scoring three goals and helping to keep 10 clean sheets.

Konate also started the Champions League final against Real Madrid, which Liverpool lost 1-0, and that was the first game in which Konate had played that the Reds were defeated.

France play away to Croatia on Monday, before further games away to Austria and then the return game against Croatia.

Raphael Varane will feel "great pride" in captaining France when they face South Africa on Tuesday in Les Bleus' final game of the March international break.

The Manchester United defender has been handed the armband for the friendly clash at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, the 28-year-old's hometown, with regular skipper Hugo Lloris sitting the game out.

Didier Deschamps' side are looking to continue their preparations for the Qatar 2022 World Cup at the end of the year, as they eye a successful defence of their 2018 crown.

With regular captain Lloris set to be benched in favour of Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan, Varane said it would be an honour to lead out his country in his home city.

"It is a great pride," he said. "I grew up not far from here. I was born in Lille, I grew up between Lille and Lens. 

"Of course, it's a bit special."

Varane also commented upon the selection of Maignan, who has kept 11 Serie A clean sheets in an impressive debut campaign with the Rossoneri, praising the 26-year-old's leadership and character.

"He brings great explosiveness," Varane said of Maignan. "He has a great kicking game, he brings his character, he is a leader at heart.

"He keeps progressing and continues to evolve. He has a lot of talent."

The former Real Madrid defender spoke in glowing terms about Clauss' qualities, saying that his inclusion in the squad brought "a lot of joy".

"He brings a lot of freshness," Varane added. "I did my best to welcome him, to put him at ease.

"He is living an exceptional moment, and it brings a lot of joy.

"If he is there [in the France squad], he has the qualities. The desire is there, [and] he has some very interesting qualities."

Deschamps' side will be looking to maintain their excellent attacking form when they host South Africa, having scored in each of their last 19 games, the longest such run in the history of the national team.

Raphael Varane learned a lot from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and has compared the recently departed Manchester United boss to ex-Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane.

France international Varane joined United from Madrid in August and spent three months working under Solskjaer before the Norwegian was dismissed by the Red Devils two weeks ago.

Solskjaer left Old Trafford having failed to win any silverware in his three years at the helm, which is in stark contrast to the 11 trophies lifted by Zidane across two spells as Madrid boss, with Varane a key player under his compatriot.

Despite appearing just nine times for new club United prior to Solskjaer's exit in what has been an injury-plagued start to his Old Trafford tenure, Varane was impressed by Solskjaer's coaching ability.

"I spoke with him before signing. He's a very good person and humble with important values and in the short time here he taught me a lot of things, values and a lot of things about the club, the mentality of the club," Varane told The Times.

"He represents a lot of things of this club: very respectful, humble. He always tried to do his best. Sometimes when you speak about something sensitive, it's like a bit negative because it's like a weakness. But it's not true. It's a strength.

"When he speaks with a player, he's honest. It's important for a manager to be honest with his players and especially this point it's similar with Zidane. Maybe that's why I like this feeling. It was a short time working with him but I learn a lot."

Varane won three LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns among an array of other trophies during a decade-long spell at Madrid that saw him rack up over 350 appearances in the Spanish capital.

However, the 28-year-old says he and his Madrid colleagues could not always celebrate their triumphs as winning titles is what was expected of them, something that played a part in his decision to leave the club.

"After winning the Champions League, the fans don't congratulate you," he told The Telegraph. "It was 'OK, the next one' after the first one I won.

"Four Champions Leagues! And they tell me, 'OK, go to the next one'. I just want to say sometimes you have to enjoy what you have. It was good!"

Varane added: "Sometimes I wanted to push the pause button, find some time to celebrate. That's why Madrid are special. It's because of this special mentality too.

"It's different. That's why I wanted to change, not because I don't like this mentality or because it's bad. It's very good, but I just wanted to try something different."

Raphael Varane called on France to rediscover their World Cup-winning form as they prepare to face Belgium in the Nations League semi-final.

Varane won the World Cup in 2018 with Les Bleus but was also part of the disappointment of Euro 2020, which saw France eliminated at the last-16 stage by Switzerland.

France's form in 2021 includes a run of five consecutive draws across all competitions, the first time Les Bleus have gone on such a streak, up until the 2-0 win over Finland in their last outing.

Didier Deschamps' side have however remained unbeaten in their first six matches of World Cup 2022 qualification – the first time they have achieved the feat in qualifying matches for a major tournament since 2006.

And Varane implored his country to use the triumph over Finland as a confidence booster for the upcoming Nations League clash, with the winner facing either Spain or Italy in the final.

"We finished the last game very well," Manchester United centre-back Varane told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"We needed it to revive a dynamic, to regain that confidence. When we chained draws together, there could have been less confidence, but these are the hazards of high-level football.

"We must build on this to continue to maintain this positive dynamic and gain new momentum, with greater success.

"There are all the qualities in this group. It's up to us to succeed in triggering this confidence and success which has enabled us to be world champions.

"We know that it takes this energy, this little madness sometimes in the game to create it."

Varane is joined in the France camp by the Hernandez brothers, Lucas and Theo, who could feature in defence together against Belgium.

The pair, who appeared at the news conference in tandem, assured that whoever starts will give their all to ensure that their team are in the final on Sunday.

"We are brothers but on the field, we are partners," Lucas Hernandez said.

"The most important thing is that everyone wants to win. These are special moments.

"When the matches start, we don't know who will start, but we will be united, we will give each other advice. We're all going to pull in the same direction."

Theo Hernandez echoed his brother's sentiments, adding: "We will help each other. It doesn't matter if it's me or Lucas playing. The other will be there to help him at all times."

Bruno Fernandes expressed his delight in working with a proven winner in Raphael Varane as Manchester United look to challenge for trophies this term.

Varane completed a move to United in a deal worth a reported £42.7million (€50m) in August, following a decade at Real Madrid.

The France international boasts a World Cup medal from 2018, along with three LaLiga titles and four Champions League triumphs to his name from his time in the Spanish capital.

Since his debut against Wolves at the end of August, no player has played more Premier League minutes for the Red Devils than Varane (360) and Fernandes hailed the impact the centre-back could have on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

"Of course, he’s a winner," Fernandes told United Review. "Everyone knows that. He’s a nice guy and works really hard and is always pushing everyone to do better.

"I think he has a great mentality but, at the same time, we cannot forget the other players. Rapha [Varane] has been brilliant, but Victor [Lindelof] has had an amazing, brilliant beginning to the season.

"Eric [Bailly] comes later because of the Olympic Games, but he’s a player we trust a lot. 'H' [Harry Maguire] we already know is doing really well."

 

Indeed, Varane led from the front for Madrid last term as well in the absence of Sergio Ramos.

United's new acquisition ranked second for Los Blancos among defenders for duels won (110) and interceptions (36) in LaLiga, while recording 73 aerial successes – more than double the tally of any of his defensive colleagues.

And Fernandes is looking forward for the leadership aspects Varane will bring to United, who currently sit fourth in the top flight after losing to Aston Villa last Saturday.

"Rapha is really important for us, and has been really important for us," he continued. "But the main point is everyone being okay to do the best that they can.

"In football, we all have different qualities, and Rapha has different qualities to Victor, H, Eric and Phil [Jones], but they can all add different things.

"Still he [Varane] is a little bit shy in some ways, because it’s the beginning for him at United, but I think he’s a leader. I think he can help in that part of the game."

Raphael Varane believes he is fulfilling his destiny after moving to Manchester United from Real Madrid.

The centre-back won three LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns in Spain's capital, while triumphing at the 2018 World Cup with France.

Varane, who joined Madrid in 2011 from Lens, completed a move to United in a deal worth a reported £42.7million (€50m) in August.

However, in an interview with Sky Sports, the France international revealed he almost arrived at Old Trafford 10 years prior as former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson travelled to his Lille home to tout the then 18-year-old's services.

"It was a special moment for me and my family," Varane said. "It's amazing to meet a person like him [Alex Ferguson] at 18.

"You know, after that, it's your destiny. Ten years in Madrid and now I'm here.

"This is a new challenge for me. A different competition, a different mentality, a different atmosphere. It's all new for me but I've enjoyed every day so far.

"It's a big challenge to get Manchester United back to the top but I feel people want to win, people want to do great things with this club, and that's a big motivation for me."

 

In the absence of Sergio Ramos last term, Varane shone for Los Blancos, who he ranked second among defenders for both duels won (110) and interceptions (36) in LaLiga.

United's defensive acquisition dominated aerially as well, winning 73 aerial duels – more than double the tallies of his defensive colleagues.

But despite his success at Madrid, he remained on the undercard as he was surrounded by big names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, who he has reunited with in Manchester.

"I don't play football for this focus [the headlines]," Varane continued. "I just want to help the team and do my best.

"I want to improve and be who I am on the pitch. That's my objective and my mentality.

"Playing with this type of player [Cristiano Ronaldo], you improve every day. If he is still playing to such a high level at his age, it's because his work is amazing. I'm very happy to play with him.

"I think he is the best example in the world in terms of work ethic and winning mentality."

Paul Pogba anticipates the level of quality and expectation at Manchester United will increase after Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford.

Ronaldo's sensational return came as a shock towards the end of the transfer window, with United's neighbours Manchester City having appeared favourites to sign the Portugal captain.

The 36-year-old is in line for a second United debut on Saturday when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side face Newcastle United - the team Ronaldo netted his only Premier League hat-trick against during his first stint at the club.

And Pogba is relishing the prospect of potentially playing with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who became the leading goalscorer in men's international football when he netted a double in Portugal's 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland last week.

"It's always a pleasure to play with the best, it’s a plus for the players to be able to train with a great player," Pogba told Telefoot.

"He's going to raise the level of the team."

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford between 2003 and 2009, scoring 118 times in 292 appearances as he collected three Premier League titles and a Champions League crown before joining Real Madrid.

 

It is not just in attack that United have improved, though, as Raphael Varane provides Solskjaer's defence with a World Cup-winning centre-back.

At 28, Varane is in the prime of his career. He joined from Madrid in July, with the move officially completed on August 14, making his debut in the 1-0 victory over Wolves, registering the assist for Mason Greenwood's winner.

During his time in Madrid, Varane won LaLiga three times and triumphed in the Champions League four times, while also winning the 2018 World Cup with France.

Pogba, too, was a part of the 2018 success in Russia, and he knows all about the qualities Varane brings to the table.

"Raph's [Raphael Varane] arrival is a positive for the club, we have a great relationship, we've known each other for a while," Pogba continued.

"I'm happy that he's with us at Manchester [United] to bring his experience and quality to the table."

Varane put in an accomplished performance in his United bow, making a team-high five clearances, successfully completing one tackle and winning four of the eight duels he competed for.

The transfer window does not close. It slams shut, and on Tuesday, it slammed shut with a flurry of late activity.

LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid were heavily involved, with Antoine Griezmann re-joining the club on loan from Barcelona while Saul Niguez left for Chelsea.

It marked the end of a difficult window for Barca, who of course lost Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain, who rounded off a stellar three months by not only keeping Kylian Mbappe, but also adding promising left-back Nuno Mendes.

Earlier in the day, Cristiano Ronaldo's sensational return to Manchester United had been confirmed, perhaps putting the Red Devils right in the mix for the Premier League title, while Chelsea - buoyed by Romelu Lukaku's comeback - cannot be ignored.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the winners, and losers, of what has been a chaotic transfer window.

 

THE WINNERS

Paris Saint-Germain

Let's start with the obvious. Achraf Hakimi, Mendes, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georgino Wijnaldum and, of course Messi. Oh, and PSG kept hold of Mbappe, too, rebuffing three bids - the final one reportedly worth €200m - from Real Madrid for the 22-year-old superstar who is out of contract next year. Speaking of out of contract players, Ramos, Donnarumma, Wijnaldum and Messi were all brought in for combined fees of €0, although their wages are sure to be astronomical even by PSG's standards. In Mbappe, Neymar and Messi, PSG have, on paper, what could be the most feared attacking trident of the modern era, not to mention Angel Di Maria in reserve. Mauricio Pochettino's side look suspect defensively but have Ramos to come in, while Donnarumma will compete with Keylor Navas. If they do not win the Champions League this season, will they ever manage it?

Manchester United

It remains to be seen whether United really needed to go out and buy Ronaldo, but the temptation – and reportedly, the requirement to get one over on noisy neighbours Manchester City – was just too much. However, there is no doubting Ronaldo brings a focal point you could argue was still missing from the Red Devils' attack, though with so much quality at his disposal the pressure will be on Ole Gunnar Solskjer to deliver a trophy. United spent big on Jadon Sancho and also brought in a world class defender in Raphael Varane. A title tilt might not be expected just yet, but silverware in some form must be the goal now. After fan protests during the botched Super League proposals earlier this year, the Glazer family seem to have gone all out to prove they want success.

Chelsea

When it comes to Premier League title contenders, Chelsea have surely put themselves well in the running. The European Champions have brought in two major additions in the form of Lukaku and Saul, both players with a wealth of experience at the highest level, and both on the back of title-winning campaigns last season. The Blues did sell Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Kurt Zouma, among others, but the strength in depth Thomas Tuchel has to play with is remarkable. A deadline day move for Sevilla's Jules Kounde did not materialise, but Saul adds another fantastic option in midfield to go alongside N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and the in-form Jorginho.

Tottenham

For a long while, it looked as though Tottenham would be one of the big losers from this window. A prolonged managerial search eventually resulted in Nuno Espirito Santo's appointment, but the main saga was over Harry Kane's future. City reportedly made one bid, during Euro 2020, which was dismissed out of hand. The champions never did return with an improved offer, despite huge speculation, and Kane ultimately stayed put. Older players such as Joe Hart, Toby Alderweireld, Erik Lamela and Moussa Sissoko were moved out, while Bryan Gil, Pierluigi Gollini, Cristian Romero and Emerson Royal – a deadline day arrival from Barca – arrived to fill the gaps. Serge Aurier's contract was terminated, while three wins from three means Spurs sat top of the league heading into the international break.

Atletico Madrid

While Saul was a deadline day exit, Atleti have given themselves a great chance of retaining their LaLiga title. With rivals Madrid failing to land Mbappe, as well as losing two of their stalwarts, and Barca seemingly in disarray, there has never been a better opportunity for Diego Simeone's team to really assert themselves as top dogs in Spain. Griezmann's arrival, on a season-long loan with the option for either club to extend the switch, has bolstered a fearsome attack that already included Luis Suarez, Angel Correa, new signing Matheus Cunha and Joao Felix - though the latter may now find chances to play in his preferred position, nominally off the front man, even harder to come by. Saul was struggling to nail down a regular spot in the first team, but Atleti showed greater desire to keep Kieran Trippier, who stayed despite interest from the Premier League. Rodrigo de Paul also arrived from Udinese.

 

THE LOSERS

Barcelona

The chickens have finally come home to roost at Camp Nou. Years of mismanagement, and the impact of COVID-19, has left the club's finances in a shambolic state. Barca had agreed to a new deal with Messi only to then announce the deal could not be completed due to "financial and structural obstacles". Barca ended the window by selling promising youngster Ilaix Moriba to RB Leipzig and shipping off Emerson to Spurs. Then, late on Tuesday, Griezmann, who cost Barca €120m in 2019, was sent back to Atleti. Luuk de Jong, a target man Ronald Koeman worked with during his stint as the Netherlands' coach, was drafted in from Sevilla as a replacement. Memphis Depay seems ready to step up after his arrival from Lyon, while Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero also came in on free transfers, though Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets were among the players who took pay cuts in order for Barca to register their latest acquisitions.

Inter

Serie A champions Inter were dealt a blow when, just after ending their 11-year trophy drought, coach Antonio Conte left the club. Financial difficulties meant the Nerrazurri had to cash in on prized assets, and Hakimi and subsequently Lukaku followed Conte out of the door. Lautaro Martinez did stay, however, with Inter reinvesting some of the funds to sign Netherlands right-back Denzel Dumfries, Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Lazio forward Juan Correa. Hakan Calhanoglu, meanwhile, joined from rivals Milan on loan, though it is difficult to see that being enough for Inter to challenge on all fronts this season.

 

Juventus

While Inter were weakened, it has to be said that Juventus – surely their closest rivals in the Scudetto hunt – also had a disappointing window. Like many European clubs, they have been hit hard by COVID-19, though appeared well set to challenge again after reappointing Massimiliano Allegri. However, Ronaldo decided he wanted out late in the window, and Juve did not stand in his way. An initial fee of £12.86m (€15m), payable over five years, was agreed with United, and Ronaldo left just like that. Moise Kean returned from Everton on a two-year loan with an obligation to buy as a replacement, while Manuel Locatelli was their other major acquisition and Weston McKennie's move from Schalke was made permanent. Based on the performance in Sunday's defeat to Empoli, however, Juve are far from the force they were during Allegri's last spell in charge.

Real Madrid

For a time last week, it really did look as though Madrid were going to end the window in sensational fashion. Three bids were lodged for Mbappe, but PSG did not buckle. Madrid did move for another French youngster – Edouardo Camavinga, who joined from Rennes on Tuesday – but overall it must be considered a poor window. Los Blancos allowed Ramos to leave on a free and sold long-time defensive partner Varane - just the eight Champions League winners' medals between them. Martin Odegaard was deemed surplus to requirements by Carlo Ancelotti and sold to Arsenal, though no buyers were found for fringe players Luka Jovic or Dani Ceballos. David Alaba's arrival on a free transfer from Bayern Munich at least softened the blow of Ramos' departure, and Mbappe may well be on board in 2022.

Manchester City

City broke the British transfer record to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, who in turn have made smart acquisitions such as Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia. While another attacking midfielder was more of a luxury than a necessity, City did miss out on Kane and then seemingly saw Ronaldo snatched from under their noses by United, though the club have claimed it is they who pulled out of the deal. Pep Guardiola went into the window wanting an out-and-out number nine following Aguero's departure, but for now the Premier League champions will have to carry on with makeshift forwards, it seems. Not that it did them much harm in 5-0 routs of Norwich City and Arsenal last month. Meanwhile, wantaway playmaker Bernardo Silva is still at the club, though he will remain a first-team regular.

Liverpool 

Unlike their league rivals, Liverpool never seemed focused on spending big. The Reds instead turned their attention to tying down the futures of key players, with Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson, Fabinho and Andrew Robertson signing new deals. Ibrahima Konate came in from RB Leipzig to boost the defence – a clear area of weakness last season during an injury crisis – though Jurgen Klopp's squad does seem weaker. They have started the season well, but it remains to be seen how they cope without Wijnaldum and even Xherdan Shaqiri should injuries trouble them again.

Raphael Varane was able to reflect on a winning debut for Manchester United, as he revelled in the intensity of the Premier League.

Signed from Real Madrid in the off-season, World Cup-winning defender Varane made his debut in United's 1-0 win over Wolves on Sunday.

Partnering Harry Maguire at the back, Varane made a team-high five clearances and provided the assist for Mason Greenwood's fortuitous late winner.

"A good feeling! I was very, very happy to be here and to help the team get this victory," the 28-year-old told United media.

"The feeling is absolutely amazing. The Premier League is very intense. The game, it's very fast. I came here for that feeling."

Asked if the major difference between his experiences in Spain and England was the intensity or the atmosphere, Varane replied: "Both. The atmosphere is fantastic, and the game is very fast.

"You have a lot of action during the game. You have to be focused and very concentrated because it never stops. It's attack, attack, counter-attack and it's very fast."

Varane is soon to be joined at United by former Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, who is to return to Old Trafford after leaving 12 years ago.

United agreed a deal with Juventus on Friday for the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who underwent a medical in Portugal this weekend and is expected to finalise his move before Tuesday's deadline.

"I am very happy. He's a legend and all players can learn when you play with him," Varane said of Ronaldo.

"It's a great help for all players, for all young players, and of course he never stops scoring goals, so he will help the team."

Manchester United have completed the signing of Raphael Varane from Real Madrid.

United confirmed at the end of July that they had reached an agreement to bring France centre-back Varane to Old Trafford.

However, Varane had to go through a quarantine period upon his arrival in the United Kingdom due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

The France international was finally introduced to the Old Trafford fans minutes before kick-off in their Premier League opener with Leeds United on Saturday.

Varane, who had less than a year remaining on his Madrid deal, has now sealed his move to the Red Devils and will play in the Premier League for the first time.

United are reported to have paid a fee of £42.7million (€50m) to secure the services of the 28-year-old on a four-year deal.

Having also brought in Jadon Sancho, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now added one of the world's best defenders.

Varane, who moved to Madrid in 2011 from Lens, has a wealth of experience, winning three LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns as he has racked up over 350 appearances in the Spanish capital.

In the absence of Sergio Ramos for much of last season, Varane ranked second among Madrid defenders in terms of both duels won (110) and interceptions (36) in LaLiga.

It was Varane's aerial presence that really shone through at the back and his 73 successful aerial duels were more than double the tallies of his defensive colleagues.

Indeed, out of all defenders in LaLiga to contest 20 or more aerial duels, Varane's success rate of 76 per cent was the best during the 2020-21 campaign.

That ability in the air will boost a United side lacking in that sense last term, despite Harry Maguire's expertise. Excluding penalties, only Leeds United (15) conceded more Premier League goals from set-pieces than United's 14.

 

Varane's vast experience even beyond his Madrid exploits should aid Solskjaer's side, too.

The defender has played 79 times for France, winning the World Cup in 2018 before playing in all four games at Euro 2020 on the way to Les Bleus' shock last-16 exit.

Varane was the only France defender who saw action and was not dribbled past by an opponent at the Euros, showing his talent on the ground as well as in the air.

With pace to get out of trouble, Varane appears an excellent foil for Maguire as United look to improve on last campaign's second-placed Premier League finish.

Chelsea have been in the market for a new striker and are closing in on their man.

The European champions had been linked with Borussia Dortmund's prolific Norway international Erling Haaland.

But have turned their attention to Inter striker Romelu Lukaku, with two bids reportedly rejected last week.

 

TOP STORY - LUKAKU TO COMPLETE CHELSEA MOVE

Lukaku will finalise his £97.5m (€115m) move from Inter to Chelsea after linking up with the Blues, reports Sky Sports.

The report claims the Belgium international flew into London on Wednesday evening, after a stop in Monte Carlo.

Lukaku had already undergone the first part of his medical and agreed in principle to the deal, with the paperwork being sorted with lawyers before he inks the five-year deal worth £200,000 (€236,000) per week.

 

ROUND-UP

- As the dominoes fall, Edin Dzeko is set to join Inter from Roma with a contract agreed until June 2023 according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Sky Sports reports that Real Madrid are monitoring Chelsea's Germany defender Antonio Rudiger . Madrid lost centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane this off-season.

- Roma head coach Jose Mourinho will speak with Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham on Thursday to try to convince him to join the Eternal City club. According to The Mirror. Chelsea and Roma have agreed terms on a £34m (€40m) deal.

- Sky in Italy claims Inter have tabled a €12m bid for PSV Eindhoven right-back Denzel Dumfries, although the Dutch club reportedly want €14m for the Netherlands international.

- Inter are also interested in Napoli skipper Lorenzo Insigne, according to Sky in Italy. The Serie A champions are trying to see if they can sign the Italy international, whose contract expires next year, for €25m.

- Arsenal are in advanced talks with Sheffield United to sign goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, according to Football London.

- Sunsport reports Manchester United are finally expected to unveil Varane as a new signing from Real Madrid on Thursday.

Raphael Varane has posted a heartfelt goodbye to Real Madrid ahead of his transfer to Manchester United.

It was announced on Tuesday that the Red Devils had agreed a deal in principle to sign the France centre-back, who had a year left on his contract with LaLiga giants Madrid.

United are reported to be paying a fee of £42.7million (€50m) to secure the transfer, with the player set to travel to England this week, where he will undergo a period of isolation before completing a medical.

Varane visited Madrid's Valdebebas training ground on Friday for the final time before departing the club where he won four Champions Leagues and three LaLiga titles among a host of trophies following his arrival from Lens in 2011.

"These past few days have been charged with many emotions, feelings that I now want to share with all of you," he wrote on Instagram.

"After 10 incredible and wonderful years at Real Madrid, a club I will always carry in my heart, the day has come to say goodbye.

"Since I arrived in 2011, together we exceeded all expectations and achieved things I could never have dreamed of.

"I would like to thank all the coaches and all the people who work or have worked for the club for everything they have done for me.

"Many thanks also to all the Madridistas who always gave me a lot of affection and with their great demands pushed me to give my best and to fight for every success.

"I have had the honour of sharing a dressing room with the best players in the world. Countless victories I will never forget, especially 'La Decima'. I realise it's been a great privilege to have been able to experience such special moments.

"Finally, I want to thank all Spaniards and especially the city of Madrid, where my two children were born. This country will always be special to me.

"It's been an incredible journey in every way. I leave with the feeling of having given everything and I will not change a single thing in this story of ours.

"A new chapter begins..."

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised Manchester United's transfer business as he declared the Red Devils were in a "good position" ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

Jadon Sancho joined on Friday from Borussia Dortmund and with a deal agreed in principle for Raphael Varane from Real Madrid, Solskjaer hailed the work done to strengthen his squad this month.

United's manager, who signed a new contract until 2024 on Saturday, spoke after his side's 2-2 draw with Brentford in a pre-season friendly at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

"First of all the club shows ambition with one of the most exciting young players in world football, then one of the most respected centre-backs," Solskjaer said post-match.

"We have different ways of playing with Raphael. I can't wait to get him in, hopefully we can get that sorted as soon as.

"Of course, [we are] very happy that we've managed to get a deal with Real Madrid. [The] medical should hopefully be OK. He's a proven winner, a player we've followed for many years."

Varane has collected three LaLiga titles and four Champions League triumphs in a 10-year spell in Madrid, though with a year left on his contract he felt it was time to move on.

The France international also won the World Cup in 2018 before playing in all four games at Euro 2020, where he was the only France defender to not be dribbled past.

The signing of Varane is, as Solskjaer says, likely to go through soon and the former United forward is delighted to have done business early this transfer window.

"We've scrambled before towards the end of the window and now I have to say we're in a good position," he added before providing an update on Marcus Rashford's potential surgery and the return of his international stars.

"With Marcus, we'll probably make a decision in the next few days when we check him up again. What's best for him and best for the club has to be considered.

"I haven't got a Scooby Doo how they [the returning internationals] are fitness-wise. Everyone's due in Monday for training, that means three weeks since the last game. We'll see how they are, what fitness levels they are at."

The Red Devils have friendlies left against Preston North End and Everton before kicking off their Premier League campaign against Leeds United on August 14.

Manchester United have confirmed they have reached an agreement in principle with Real Madrid for defender Raphael Varane.

With only 12 months remaining on his Madrid contract, Varane has been allowed to join the Red Devils.

United are reported to be paying a fee of £42.7million (€50m) to secure the transfer, which is subject to a medical and terms being finalised with the player.

Having recently brought in Jadon Sancho, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is poised to add one of the world's best defenders as United outspend their major European rivals ahead of the new season.

Varane is expected to sign a four-year deal and Solskjaer, who has cited defensive frailties as a problem throughout his tenure, fills yet another key position.

Having moved to Madrid in 2011 from Lens, Varane has a wealth of experience, winning three LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns as he has racked up over 350 appearances in the Spanish capital.

In the absence of Sergio Ramos for much of last season, Varane impressed again.

The centre-back ranked second among Madrid defenders in terms of both duels won (110) and interceptions (36) in LaLiga.

It was Varane's aerial presence that really shone through at the back and his 73 successful aerial duels were more than double the tallies of his defensive colleagues.

Indeed, out of all defenders in LaLiga to contest 20 or more aerial duels, Varane's success rate of 76 per cent was the best during the 2020-21 campaign.

That ability in the air will boost a United side lacking in that sense last term, despite Harry Maguire's expertise. Excluding penalties, only Leeds United (15) conceded more Premier League goals from set-pieces than United's 14.

 

Varane's vast experience even beyond his Madrid exploits should aid Solskjaer's side, too.

The defender has played 79 times for France, winning the World Cup in 2018 before playing in all four games at Euro 2020 on the way to Les Bleus' shock last-16 exit.

Varane was the only France defender who saw action and was not dribbled past by an opponent at the Euros, showing his talent on the ground as well as in the air.

With pace to get out of trouble, Varane appears an excellent foil for Maguire as United look to improve on last campaign's second-placed Premier League finish.

United finished 12 points behind rivals and champions Manchester City and will hope to have both Sancho and Varane available when they start their quest to bridge that gap against Leeds at Old Trafford on August 14.

Manchester United great Rio Ferdinand has expressed his admiration for Raphael Varane, labelling the Frenchman as a "genuine world-class centre-back" whose achievements speak for themselves.

The Real Madrid defender is understood to be days away from a move to Old Trafford for a reported fee of £42.7million (€50m) as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally finds a suitable partner for Harry Maguire.

United previously ticked another target off their transfer list when they announced the signing of Jadon Sancho, although Varane will provide much-needed experience at the other end of the pitch for the Red Devils.

And former United defender Ferdinand, who amassed 455 appearances and won six Premier League titles in Manchester, could not contain his excitement for Varane's potential arrival.

"When you watch him sometimes he almost purrs, he's got that pace, that poise," Ferdinand said on his self-titled 'Rio Ferdinand Presents FIVE' YouTube channel.

"We've signed a genuine world-class centre-back. His list of honours is ridiculous, it's as long as my arm."

Indeed, Varane does ooze class and experience, having won the World Cup in 2018 and collected three LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues with Madrid.

Despite playing all four games at Euro 2020, the France centre-back was the only one of Didier Deschamps' defenders to not get dribbled past, while he also led LaLiga defenders in terms of aerial success last season.

Though Varane's aerial duels were also more than double any of his defensive team-mates, he also ranked second in terms of both interceptions and duels won among the club's defenders in 2020-21.

 

Ferdinand, whose £30m move from Leeds United to Man Utd was a record fee for a defender in 2002, also found time to praise former colleague Solskjaer and the recruitment by United this transfer window.

"It's a great job by the [recruitment] people at Manchester United. United have been criticised in the past, and rightly so, for dilly-dallying in the market," the former centre-back added.

"This one they were assertive, they went for their man and they got him. No doubt in my mind, he would have said to Real Madrid 'I need it, I want it, I have to go'."

Having seen Sancho join the likes of Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Maguire, Ferdinand was adamant that Varane's transfer would be due to his own insistence to move onto a fresh challenge in England.

"What a signing. There's been talk in the transfer market since it opened up – it must have come from the player," Ferdinand continued.

"He must have wanted to leave, and be part of the new Man United way, the project that's going ahead.

"The talent they've got there, the ability to play alongside Maguire after he did so well at the Euros probably played a part. I just think he sees this as a better project than what he's got at Real Madrid now."

United get their Premier League campaign underway against Leeds on August 14 and Solskjaer will be hoping to be able to call upon both of his high-profile signings should the deal go through.

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