United offer £9m for teenage Lens defender
Manchester United have bid €10.5m (£9.2m) for the French central defender Raphaël Varane, as they continue to set the pace in the summer transfer market. The 18-year-old Lens centre-half is seen as a player for the future but the price United are willing to pay reflects his reputation as one of the rising stars of the French game.
Lens' opening negotiating position was £10m and the major obstacle United appear to have is convincing Varane that he will get first-team opportunities at Old Trafford. He said only a week ago that he would "think carefully" about the proposition of a move to United. "What interests me is the playing time. I have to think twice and go to a club that will allow me to progress," added Varane, who suggested that "the most reasonable choice would be to stay in Ligue 1."
But despite the struggle of Gabriel Obertan, one of the stars of his age group at France's Clairefontaine academy, to make headway at United and a summer which has already seen Phil Jones added to the club's young central defensive contingent, Sir Alex Ferguson has gone to lengths to persuade Varane that he can learn the English game by signing now.
Paris Saint-Germain are among other contenders to sign the 6ft 3in defender, whose maturity in a Lens side which was relegated last season has been unmistakable to United scouts who have paid regular visits to Stade Félix Bollaert this spring. Reports in France also suggest that two major Spanish clubs, including Real Madrid, are interested.
Though there had been some prospect of an arrangement by which Varane would be sold and loaned back to Lens or another French club, a permanent move is now the Premier League champions' preference. Such a move to United would see Varane substantially increase his £10,500-a-month salary in northern France.
Just a year ago, Varane was playing for the Lens Under-19s but his goalscoring ability in the air and his capacity to also operate as a holding midfielder have increased his value.
The injury issues which have dogged Rio Ferdinand for two seasons, Jonny Evans' indifferent form in the last campaign and Wes Brown's likely departure to Sunderland means Ferguson needs to rebuild his central defence. The Sunderland manager, Steve Bruce, who will meet Brown, John O'Shea and Darron Gibson in the next few days, is as yet only confident of Gibson's desire to head to the Stadium of Light.
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Best memes as Twitter reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal joins Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Sami Khedira
Sami Khedira to Arsenal? Arsene Wenger reveals Gunners are still in the market for defensive midfielder
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Risky business to think Balotelli can replace Luis Suarez
Malky Mackay texts: Harry Redknapp defends former Cardiff City manger - 'he hasn't raped anyone and he is not a paedophile'
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 4 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians