Manchester United have been chasing Raphael Varane for quite some time now. They have always tried but things never materialized as the Red Devils were not able to offer the chance of winning big trophies like Real Madrid.
On top of that, he was getting good playing time with Los Blancos and he was playing with some of the best players in world football.
However, the circumstances are no longer the same for Manchester United. Real Madrid are in a phase of transition while Manchester United are trying to rebuild themselves.
As part of their reboot, United are looking at the possibility of signing the Frenchman. Varane now has just one year left on his current contract and could leave Real Madrid for free next summer.
The optimism of Manchester United fans must have escalated after news broke that the Red Devils were close to agreeing personal terms with the World Cup winner. But there is a sense that history is repeating itself. In the year 2015, Sergio Ramos was also linked with a move to Old Trafford.
However, he ended up staying at the Santiago Bernabeu as he captained his team to three successive Champions League trophies. At the time it was believed that Ramos had used Manchester United's interest in him to get a better deal from Real Madrid. Perhaps it could be a similar situation with Varane as well.
Thus it is very much likely that he might end up staying in Spain and get a better deal from Los Blancos. In such a scenario, Manchester United will have to pursue other defenders as they look to continue rebuilding themselves under Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
In an ideal world Varane would have been a great partner for Harry Maguire. He would have used his pace against strikers while Maguire would have physically bullied them.
But for now, keeping in mind that the Frenchman might not sign for Manchester United, we look at three defenders who could be alternatives to Varane.
Manchester United's center-back alternatives to Raphael Varane
#3 Jules Kounde
The 22-year old Frenchman has made quite a name for himself in recent times. Kounde plays for Sevilla in La Liga and last season, his side conceded only 30 goals in the league season. Julen Lopetegui's side had one of the best defenses and the Frenchman was a key figure at the back.
He played on the right hand side of a back four. If he joins Manchester United, then he will play in a similar position as Maguire plays on the left side of the defense. The Sevilla defender can also complement the Englishman very well, as the former Leicester City defender is tall and often likes to bully strikers.
It is against the quick and pacey forwards that he struggles. Kounde has a knack for closing down spaces very quickly and he reads the game very well. Thus the Sevilla defender can easily assist Maguire in dealing with pacey forwards. He is an enthusiastic tackler as well.
Kounde is very good on the ball too. He made 4.11 progressive passes per 90, 5.51 progressive carries per 90 and despite this risky style of play, he has a 90.2% passing completion rate. With the Red Devils trying to play more attacking football, a center back who is comfortable on the ball would be a significant signing.
The former Bordeaux center back also represents Manchester United's idea of signing young players under Solksjear. He can develop his game alongside the likes of Rashford and Sancho as Manchester United build a team to challenge for the title.
However, the downside of signing him could be his lack of physicality. Kounde is only 22 years old and he will need time to adjust to the Premier League.
#2 Cristian Romero
Cristian Romero was one of the unsung heroes of Argentina's 2021 Copa America trimuph. The 23 year old marshaled the backline to help Lionel Messi and co. win the international trophy.
He has also been very impressive for an exciting Atalanta team. Last season he made 40 appearances in all competitions, making 3.3 interceptions per game.
The Argentinian already plays for an Atalanta team that plays attacking football with a high line. Manchester United also have a similar style of play and he should not find it hard to adjust the playing style.
Although the Premier League can be physically intimidating, Romero is still young and can develop his game alongside the likes of Maguire and Shaw.
Manchester United are also considering him as an alternative to Varane. They are ready to offer around €45 million for him but the Italian side is demanding around €60 million. It will be up to Ed Woodward to convince Gil Orobici to reduce their price tag for Romero.
The Copa America winner might not be on the same level as the Frenchman but he is still a quality player who can win trophies for Manchester United. The former Juventus defender has shown that he is capable of being a lynchpin defender who can provide solid defensive cover for his team.
On the defensive side, his stats are very good in comparison to Varane. Romero has 2.10 blocks per 90 while the Real Madrid defender has 1.29 blocks per 90. The former Genoa defender won 3.84 aerial duals per 90 while Varane managed to win 2.46 aerial duals per 90.
# 1 Merih Demiral
The Juventus defender would be the ideal fit for Manchester United this summer. The Red Devils have around €45 million to spend this summer on a new defender.
They have also made a €45 million bid for Sevilla defender Jules Kounde. The Spanish side has rejected the offer as they are asking for €80 million for the Frenchman.
On the other hand, the Bianconeri have put the Turkish defender on the market in order to raise some funds. Juventus are looking to get an offer of €40 million for him. Manchester United are also said to be willing to pay the Old Lady a similar fee to sign him.
Thus, from a financial point of view, he is a defender the Red Devils might be able to sign this summer.
As for his abilities on the pitch, the former Sassuolo defender has a bright future ahead of him. At one point in time he was considered to be the successor to Giorgio Chielleni as well.
The only issue with him is the injury problems that he has faced in recent times. However, he is only 23 years old and he still has time to improve upon his fitness and be a success for a club like Manchester United.
Even before signing Harry Maguire, he was considered an option by Manchester United. Demiral's stats might not be very impressive but that is largely due to his stop-start season. He has been injured many times and when he is fit he finds it hard to be in the starting line-up with De Ligt and Bonnuci ahead of him.
Manchester United could tempt him with more playing time and with his physicality he should be able to smoothly adjust to the Premier League. The Turkish international is known for his passing as well and under Solksjear, the Red Devils have tried to play more expansive football.