Real Madrid Quarter-Season Report Card: Raphael Varane

Real Madrid, Raphael Varane (Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Raphael Varane (Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid center back Raphael Varane hasn’t been at his best this season, but there are still some positives to discuss.

At the November international break, Real Madrid sit fourth in the league table. They are one point behind Atletico Madrid, who have played one fewer game than Los Blancos, and they are two points behind their upcoming opponents Villarreal in second.

The same problems remain in the attack, as only Karim Benzema is carrying the forward line when Eden Hazard is unavailable. In many ways, the seasons hangs in the balance on Hazard’s health.

But the biggest reason for Real’s regression is the defense. Last season, Real Madrid led all teams in Europe’s top five leagues in goals allowed. This season, they have allowed more goals than six other teams in La Liga, including two teams ahead of them in the table in Atleti and league leaders Real Sociedad.

There are multiple issues at play. The overall pressing intensity from the forwards has been dreadful. Casemiro looks worn out. And injuries to Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola have left Los Merengues without a true right back.

However, the is also the matter of Raphael Varane. Last season, Varane was arguably the best center back in the world, returning to his form as one of the world’s absolute best. He and Sergio Ramos shut down nearly every attack in sight, and Real rarely had issues with Varane in the second half of the season.

He hasn’t been terrible in 2020-2021, but he’s definitely been below his standard. Against Valencia, he even had an own goal to sum up his struggles in a 4-1 loss at the Mestalla. But that wasn’t even his worst performance.

After recovering from a nightmare game at Manchester City with two embarrassing, goal-costing giveaways in the Champions League knockout stages without Sergio Ramos in the lineup, Varane had another stinker without Ramos by his side in a 3-2 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk. At no point in that game did Varane look like a top center back.

Varane has been a disappointment so far due to his mistakes, but there are some things he’s done well. According to, Varane is Real Madrid’s leader with 2.1 interceptions per game in La Liga. He also leads the team, among qualifiers, with just 0.3 dribbles allowed per game. And he leads the team with 3.3 aerial duels won per game.

So the numbers look good. For the most part, he has been solid. However, center backs are evaluated by their worst moments, especially players of Varane’s caliber. His worst moments have been dreadful, and while he’s been solid for 80 percent of the season, he hasn’t been “great” either.

Real Madrid need Varane to be great. They have so many offensive issues that will not be solved this season. Los Blancos’ attacking problems can only be solved by a big transfer market. Therefore, they must lean on their defense again. And in order to lean on their defense, they need to lean on their most talented individual defender in Varane.

Next. Real Madrid Report Card: Raphael Varane. dark

He hasn’t exactly been bad to start the season, but he hasn’t truly been playing to the level Real Madrid fans have come to expect either.

Grade: B-, 7.0 out of 10