Manchester United brought to a fruition a 10-year transfer desire on Tuesday when they announced an agreement had been reached to sign Raphael Varane from Real Madrid.
Once he has passed a medical and personal terms have been ironed out, Varane will join United on a four-year contract with the option of a further year.
United are paying Real £34million plus add-ons for his signature after executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward struck a deal with his Real Madrid counterpart Jose Angel Sanchez.
If all goes to plan now, Varane will line up alongside Jadon Sancho in the famous red shirt in the 2021/22 season.
While United have moved quickly to agree a transfer for the 28-year-old defender this summer, their pursuit has not always been so straightforward.
A transfer requires all parties to be on board and that has not always been the case when it comes to Varane and Manchester United.
Here, Mirror Football recalls their previous attempts to bring him to Old Trafford.
2011 - Zidane's pulling power
Varane will leave Madrid this summer after 10 years of service to the club in which he has won four Champions League titles, three La Ligas and a Copa Del Rey trophy - but his career path could have been very different.
United were on the lookout for a new defender as the 2010/11 season drew to a close. They weren’t short of options, with Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown, Chris Smalling, John O’Shea and Jonny Evans on the books, but Sir Alex Ferguson always had one eye on the future.
The club wanted talented young players and Ferguson had put huge emphasis on scouting, knowing United could not compete with the growing financial might of Chelsea and Manchester City.
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Ferguson's scouts had regularly visited the Stade Félix-Bollaert during that period and had identified 18-year-old Varane as a player of great potential.
United contacted Lens and by mid-May 2011 The Guardian was describing the deal as ‘very close’ to completion, with haggling to reduce his £10m asking price the only stumbling block.
Ferguson was so taken by what he’d seen of Varane that he personally made the trip to north-east France to try and get the deal over the line.
"Yes, it's true. We were close to an agreement with Manchester United,” Varane later told TF1 .
“And yes, I met Sir Alex Ferguson. I went there with my mum, who acted as translator.
“There was an interesting project there, but that's part of my career. It was a choice of club."
Paris Saint-Germain were also in the picture, but it was Real Madrid who emerged as United’s true rivals.
“I hurtled down on the train from Euston to Lille to sign the young French defender Raphael Varane,” Ferguson wrote in his 2015 book Leading.
“David Gill was getting into the finer points of the contract with Lens when Zinedine Zidane got wind of this and somehow scooped him up for Real Madrid from under our noses.
“I don’t think Jose Mourinho, who was managing Real Madrid, had even seen Varane play.”
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Zidane was then working as Real president Florentino Perez’s special advisor. His crucial work in persuading his compatriot to snub United would play a part in his appointment as the club’s sporting director that summer.
Zidane’s wooing was crucial, as Lens president Gervais Martel made clear.
"Madrid directors were very good to us, they have been speaking with the player,” he told the Lens club website at the time. “I want to emphasise the speaker was exceptional, in this case Zinedine Zidane.”
Speaking in 2014, Mourinho also made it clear Varane’s signing was Zidane’s work, not his.
“I was on holiday and in Madrid,” he said. “Zinedine Zidane arrived with a DVD and I thought ‘that player, with two years' work with us, would be fantastic’.
"Varane had one foot at Manchester United but Real Madrid are very strong and Rapha came to us."
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As well as being charmed by one of his heroes, Varane later gave another reason behind his decision.
Varane officially joined Madrid for a fee of around €10m on June 27. Fourteen days earlier United had signed Blackburn’s Phil Jones on a five-year deal for £16.5m.
“Manchester United? They had just signed Phil Jones in my position,” Varane told L’Equipe in 2014.
“My first reaction when Real wanted to sign me was not, ‘Of course I will go’. I only made my decision when I knew that the coach wanted me to play in the first team.”
2018 - Woodward’s quest
Fast-forward seven years, four Real Madrid Champions League triumphs and a France World Cup win, and United were returning to try and lure Varane to Manchester.
Mourinho was once again involved, but this time the shoe was on the other foot, with the former Real boss now in charge at Old Trafford.
United had just been blown out of the water by Manchester City in the Premier League, finishing 19 points behind the runaway champions in the 2017/18 season while flopping in the Champions League.
Mourinho demanded backing in the summer transfer window and Woodward promised he would provide it. The problem was, when United put out the feelers, they were quoted what they felt were hugely inflated transfer fees.
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The world-record £75m fee for a defender Liverpool paid Southampton for Virgil van Dijk in January 2018 sent ripples through the market.
Inter Milan demanded £76m for Milan Skriniar and Leicester wanted £75m for Harry Maguire. Jerome Boateng’s hamstrings were a worry at Bayern Munich, Barcelona ’s Yerry Mina came with problematic agent fees, Spurs wanted to keep Toby Alderweireld and Diego Godin didn’t want to leave Atletico Madrid.
It was in this context in which Woodward went about trying to back up his promise to Mourinho. The press was briefed that the United chief was ready to sanction a £100m move for Varane, whose stock had reached a career high after helping France beat Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final on July 15.
Funnily enough, that proved a difficult transfer to pull off. Woodward met with Real president Perez, who he knew well following the club-record £59.7m signing of Angel Di Maria in 2014. The pair spoke over breakfast in Miami on the eve of the clubs' pre-season friendly on July 31, but the informal discussions did not amount to much.
United won the International Champions Cup match 2-1, but it proved to be a hollow victory. A £52m move for Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred, £19m for Porto’s Diogo Dalot and a nominal fee for 35-year-old back-up goalkeeper Lee Grant were the only moves they completed that summer.
The difference between then and now is palpable.
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