United have identified Varane as a leading candidate


Manchester United’s pursuit of Raphael Varane this summer has been complicated by Sergio Ramos’s shock departure from Real Madrid.

United have identified Varane as a leading candidate in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s search for a new centre-back but Real president Florentino Perez is being forced to rethink his position over Varane in the wake of Ramos’ exit.

Ramos, 35, bid a controversial and emotional farewell to Real on Thursday after a trophy-laden 16-year spell at the club by accusing Perez of reneging on a promise to award the Spain defender a new contract.

Real were prepared to cash in on Varane this summer in a bid to raise funds with the 28-year-old France defender now in the final year of his contract at the Bernabeu and open to a move away.

But Real are reluctant to lose both their captain Ramos and Varane, who have formed their central defensive axis for years, in the same summer and are now due to open talks with the Frenchman in a bid to extend his deal.

David Alaba, the Austria defender, is due to join Real on a free transfer from Bayern Munich at the end of the month and Carlo Ancelotti, the Madrid club’s coach, hopes to pair him with Varane.

I never thought this day would come, but everything has a beginning and an end. pic.twitter.com/B4IlwQ4pBJ

— Sergio Ramos (@SergioRamos) June 17, 2021

“I’ve never wanted to leave,” Ramos said during a Zoom press conference. “The club offered me one year, with a drop in salary. I wanted two years, not for the money, for continuity for me and my family. The economic issue was never a problem.

“Then I decided to accept the offer that I thought was on the table, of one year, but I was told that the offer wasn’t there any more. They told my agent that the offer had expired a week ago. The truth is I don’t know why the offer expired, I can’t answer that. There was a negotiation and maybe I misunderstood.”

Paris Saint Germain are the favourites to sign Ramos although the United States has been touted as a potential option. United tried and failed to sign Ramos in 2015 but there has been little indication of them being ready to revive that interest as things stand.

United’s priority is to complete a deal for the England winger, Jadon Sancho, with Borussia Dortmund holding out for a total package worth €95 million (£81m), but Solskjaer would like reinforcements in other areas, including a centre-half, even if compromises seem inevitable given the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ideally, the United manager also wants to recruit a striker and defensive midfielder and United are also interested in the England right back, Kieran Trippier, but they have so far been put off by Atletico Madrid’s £20m valuation.

United announced their latest financial results for the first three months of the year on Thursday, which revealed that revenues had fallen by just £5.4m on the corresponding period last year, mainly due to Champions League income. However, matchday income was down almost 95 per cent to £1.6m for the three months to March 31 as a result of fans still not being permitted in the stadium and commercial revenue fell by over 15 per cent. Wage costs were up over 22 per cent.

United have also signalled their intention to pay shareholders a $0.09 per share dividend on July 30. Joel Glazer, United’s co-chairman, defended the payment of dividends in a fans’ forum this month, despite the financial impact of Covid and the club’s huge debt pile. United’s net debt now stands at £443.5m

“The absence of fans over the past year has proved that they are the lifeblood of the game,” Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, said. “Following the successful return of limited numbers at the end of last season, and continued trials of increased crowds at sports events this summer, we remain optimistic about the prospect of fans returning to Old Trafford in larger numbers going forwards.

“With the foundations for long-term success in place, including significant initiatives to strengthen engagement with our supporters, we look forward to the upcoming season.”