Manchester United could look to sign Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane this summer - 10 years on from Sir Alex Ferguson’s near-miss.

Ferguson came close to signing an 18-year-old Varane from French club Lens in 2011 only to be thwarted by Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

Varane has enjoyed a stellar career with Real, winning four Champions Leagues, three La Liga titles and the Copa del Rey, but it could have been very different had then-sporting director Zidane not taken him to the Spanish capital as a teenager.

United were desperate to sign a centre-back in the summer of 2011 and ended up going for Blackburn’s Phil Jones in a £16.5million deal - only after Varane’s €10m move to Real.

“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.”

The MEN understands Madrid are open to the idea of selling Varane to United this summer, with Varane reluctant to pen a new contract as he believes there is too great a disparity between his contract offer and what his current teammates are earning.

Varane is out of contract next year and Madrid would rather obtain a fee for him than lose him for free next year.

January’s accounts showed Madrid have a debt of €901m so they may well be forced to sell some of their players, especially if they are to finance a move for Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.

Varane is a long-standing transfer target for United. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was prepared to sanction a £100million move following France’s 2018 World Cup win, but his value at the time was even greater.

United’s priority in the summer transfer window is to find a long-term partner for Harry Maguire in central defence. The club’s relationship with Madrid remains friendly, despite having not dealt directly with them since Angel Di Maria’s club-record £59.7m signing in 2014.