The story of Varane and Pogba's friendship

Sunday 15 August 2021 14:00

Manchester United’s two major transfer moves this summer have not just increased the club’s chances of success – they’ve also accelerated two of modern football’s great friendships.

Jadon Sancho’s so-called ‘bromance’ with Marcus Rashford is well known, but perhaps less familiar to United fans is the close relationship between Paul Pogba and our new centre-back Raphael Varane.
 
The two are, of course, international colleagues, and both played pivotal roles in France’s 2018 World Cup win in Russia.
 
But Varane’s bond with Pogba is deeper than their shared nationhood; more long-lasting than recent Les Bleus triumphs.

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Their first encounter came in France's youth sides, where both were part of a hugely talented age group.
 
“Already, at a very young age, Varane was a key player in the France youth teams,” explains French journalist Julien Laurens. “He should have been part of the team that won the U20 World Cup [in 2013] – the '93 generation with Paul Pogba. 
 
“He missed out on that tournament because of an injury. But otherwise he would have been there with that great team that Pogba captained. We knew that it was just a matter of time before he would break into the A team. It didn't take him long to make the French team.”
And when Varane did break into Didier Deschamp’s senior side, for a 3-1 win over Georgia in March 2013, which other tall, gangly player was making his bow? You guessed it: La Pioche.

Since then, the pair have been instrumental for France. Varane missed Euro 2016 – in which France were beaten on home soil in the final by Portugal – due to a thigh injury, but helped Les Bleus keep four clean sheets on the road to glory in Russia, and even captained the side in the victory over Denmark.
 
Pogba played all but one game, and scored arguably the decisive goal in the final  – a 4-2 win over Croatia.
 
That success will forever bind the pair, but they are also team-mates who trust and respect each other; who have a long history of consulting each other.
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Pogba hinted at this by pointedly saying in public: “When you say he is a team-mate, he is a true team-mate.”
 
Meanwhile Varane has praised Paul’s “strength of character… this determination and the ability to transmit it to the whole group… people listen to and respect him”.
 
That might remind you of the famous team talk Pogba gave at half-time in the 2018 World Cup final, which went viral after France’s eventual victory.
 
But Laurens reckons the pair’s contrasting styles of leadership is what will really benefit the United dressing room.

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“I compare Varane to Paul Pogba because they are very, very close friends,” explains Julien, “but also because they are so different. It's a different type of leadership. Pogba is very much into the ambience [of the dressing room], Varane’s a leader and a very important one.
 
“In terms of leadership and talking when needed and most importantly, not just talking for the sake of it, but saying important, intelligent, constructive things, he's always there. With Real Madrid, in Spanish, in French or English, or with France, he's always been that guy.
 
“I think you need a bit of both. You need a Paul Pogba, you need a Raphael Varane, you need someone like Sergio Ramos [who Varane played with at Real Madrid]. If you can find the right mix with all those kinds of guys, I think you're onto something really good for the dressing room.”
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The Athletic recently revealed the pair “spoke at length” ahead of Varane’s move to United, and after the deal in principle was announced in late July, Pogba shared a screenshot of the pair talking on FaceTime, via his Instagram account.
 
Who knows what they were talking about? All we could see was both smiling happily.
 
Is it any wonder? This duo are well accustomed to happiness on the football pitch. That their international brotherhood is set to grow at club level, with United, is an exciting prospect for Reds everywhere.

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