Real Madrid: 5 burning questions after 1-1 draw with Villarreal

Real Madrid, Eden Hazard (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Eden Hazard (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Raphael Varane
Real Madrid, Raphael Varane (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images) /

Is Raphael Varane already at his best again?

Raphael Varane received some criticism over the November international break for a mediocre start to the season. The French international did not play poorly for Los Blancos, but he wasn’t at the world-class standard Madridistas have come to expect from the center back.

He certainly met that standard against Villarreal. And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that without him, Real would have lost this match – maybe even by a margin of more than one goal.

Varane had a few interventions that saved goals, including one at the heart of the penalty box to deny Villarreal’s best player Gerard Moreno. He stepped up as the leader of the defense without Sergio Ramos, covering up for so many defensive errors in positioning by the Casemiro-less midfield and by Nacho Fernandez next to him. And his coverage allowed Dani Carvajal to get up the pitch, which was essential for Real Madrid.

The stats show that Varane had four clearances, two interceptions, and about 90 percent of his passes completed. I sincerely don’t think those stats do justice at all to how well Varane played. He was the best player on the pitch and stood toe-to-toe with arguably La Liga’s most exciting attack. Villarreal, with Dani Parejo pulling the strings, were at their sparkling best on Saturday in the second half, but Varane made sure Real came away with the point. That was a leadership performance, no doubt, from the 27-year-old defender.