Interview

Varane sets sights on City

Having just lifted his third Liga title with Real Madrid, Raphaël Varane now turns his attention towards the UEFA Champions League and the upcoming second leg round of 16 tie at Manchester City. Here, the 27-year-old discusses his approach heading into Friday’s big game and reflects upon his own development as a centre-back.

Congratulations on winning the league title. It was an amazing feat winning ten straight games after the break before drawing on the final day. Things aren’t going badly at the moment…

I’m doing very well, thank you. Indeed, we managed to win this Liga, which was a bit of a special one. It wasn’t easy with the break, but we managed to adapt and to keep the winning streak going. It’s down to a great effort from the whole team, and we’re quite satisfied to have won La Liga in the end.

Karim Benzema has played a huge part in that success – with 26 goals in all competitions already this season.

He’s in top form right now. I’m not surprised by his qualities; everyone knows what they are, but he’s just making the most of them. He’s got great confidence; he’s at the top of his game. He’s our leader in attack. He brings a lot to us, not only through his goals but also his movements, his quality, and what he can create. He allows the team to put our game in place. He’s at a point where he combines experience, quality and physical fitness ... And he manages some assists, he creates movements, plus he’s efficient. He’s a very complete number 9.

Turning to the Champions League, there was an incredible intensity to the 2-1 loss to City in the first leg.

That sums it up nicely. It was a very high-level game with a lot of intensity, pressing from both teams, and it was won and lost on minor details. The slightest error can be fatal and can decide the game, and they managed to be more efficient than us. They managed to win it, but it was a very tight game, with two teams that like to knock the ball around and with a lot of intensity. Those are the best Champions League games; the ones which come down to very little. That’s also why we love this competition, because it’s played at a very, very high level … Towards the end of the game, though, maybe there was a little bit of slackness, maybe a little bit of tiredness, too. But I think that, overall, we controlled the game well. Unfortunately, at the end, we let the win slip through our fingers, but that game gave us a lot of confidence because we had managed to put in a really good display against a really good team.

Raphaël Varane celebrates his fourth Champions League triumph in 2018


What will it be like to face them in an empty stadium in Manchester?

It’ll be very different without the crowd, that’s for sure. Still, it’s an important competition. We always want to win. We are Real Madrid. We’ve managed to accumulate quite a lot of wins in a row, which has allowed us to get confident. We won’t play any matches right before it, so we’ll have time to get ready. The difference will be made by the team that shows the best form on the day. Having said that, we always approach those matches with a hunger to win and the right level of determination. It’ll be a tough match against a very good team. We’re expecting a competitive fight. We’ll prepare and we’ll do everything we can to be ready and to fight for it, like we always do in this competition.

A word on City centre-back and your compatriot Aymeric Laporte. What kind of player is he?

He’s very calm when he has the ball; he can play out well from the back, and his long passes are always good. He’s progressed a lot over the last few years. Getting to a club like Manchester City helped him to continue progressing.

How do you view your own development since arriving at Real Madrid in 2011?

I’m much more of an all-round player than when I got here. Every year, every season, I try to work on my weaknesses as well as work on my strengths. I try to get better in the creation of the game, in face-to-face play, and on a tactical level. I’ve always tried to get better and over the last nine years, I think I have continuously improved. I also try to be more decisive. I’m more mature now. This season, I’ve worked on my long game with my left foot. I try to improve small things like that because there’s always room for improvement.

What has your coach Zinédine Zidane brought to you, specifically, as a defender?

He’s pushed me to take risks, to try more things and play forward all the time; to be another offensive asset for the team. He also passes on confidence and serenity. It’s important to be supported by your coach, and he also gives advice: to not hesitate to try some passes, to play higher up the pitch and allow the team to play more offensive football.

You've won the Champions League four times with Real Madrid already…

We are aware that what we have done in the last few years is quite outstanding. It doesn’t happen very often. We also try to remember those days to know what worked, to try and gain something from that experience. We know that small details make a difference in big matches. We have a lot of experience of huge clashes, so we might be a bit more composed, although we’re always as determined as previously. And we know which traps not to fall into. That’s the kind of experience we’ve gained over the last few years. We also know that it’s difficult to always win and to always stay on top. Having said that, it’s still our goal and it runs in the club’s DNA, in our DNA. We always want to bounce back, move forward, and win.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Congratulations on winning the league title. It was an amazing feat winning ten straight games after the break before drawing on the final day. Things aren’t going badly at the moment…

I’m doing very well, thank you. Indeed, we managed to win this Liga, which was a bit of a special one. It wasn’t easy with the break, but we managed to adapt and to keep the winning streak going. It’s down to a great effort from the whole team, and we’re quite satisfied to have won La Liga in the end.

Karim Benzema has played a huge part in that success – with 26 goals in all competitions already this season.

He’s in top form right now. I’m not surprised by his qualities; everyone knows what they are, but he’s just making the most of them. He’s got great confidence; he’s at the top of his game. He’s our leader in attack. He brings a lot to us, not only through his goals but also his movements, his quality, and what he can create. He allows the team to put our game in place. He’s at a point where he combines experience, quality and physical fitness ... And he manages some assists, he creates movements, plus he’s efficient. He’s a very complete number 9.

Turning to the Champions League, there was an incredible intensity to the 2-1 loss to City in the first leg.

That sums it up nicely. It was a very high-level game with a lot of intensity, pressing from both teams, and it was won and lost on minor details. The slightest error can be fatal and can decide the game, and they managed to be more efficient than us. They managed to win it, but it was a very tight game, with two teams that like to knock the ball around and with a lot of intensity. Those are the best Champions League games; the ones which come down to very little. That’s also why we love this competition, because it’s played at a very, very high level … Towards the end of the game, though, maybe there was a little bit of slackness, maybe a little bit of tiredness, too. But I think that, overall, we controlled the game well. Unfortunately, at the end, we let the win slip through our fingers, but that game gave us a lot of confidence because we had managed to put in a really good display against a really good team.

Raphaël Varane celebrates his fourth Champions League triumph in 2018


What will it be like to face them in an empty stadium in Manchester?

It’ll be very different without the crowd, that’s for sure. Still, it’s an important competition. We always want to win. We are Real Madrid. We’ve managed to accumulate quite a lot of wins in a row, which has allowed us to get confident. We won’t play any matches right before it, so we’ll have time to get ready. The difference will be made by the team that shows the best form on the day. Having said that, we always approach those matches with a hunger to win and the right level of determination. It’ll be a tough match against a very good team. We’re expecting a competitive fight. We’ll prepare and we’ll do everything we can to be ready and to fight for it, like we always do in this competition.

A word on City centre-back and your compatriot Aymeric Laporte. What kind of player is he?

He’s very calm when he has the ball; he can play out well from the back, and his long passes are always good. He’s progressed a lot over the last few years. Getting to a club like Manchester City helped him to continue progressing.

How do you view your own development since arriving at Real Madrid in 2011?

I’m much more of an all-round player than when I got here. Every year, every season, I try to work on my weaknesses as well as work on my strengths. I try to get better in the creation of the game, in face-to-face play, and on a tactical level. I’ve always tried to get better and over the last nine years, I think I have continuously improved. I also try to be more decisive. I’m more mature now. This season, I’ve worked on my long game with my left foot. I try to improve small things like that because there’s always room for improvement.

What has your coach Zinédine Zidane brought to you, specifically, as a defender?

He’s pushed me to take risks, to try more things and play forward all the time; to be another offensive asset for the team. He also passes on confidence and serenity. It’s important to be supported by your coach, and he also gives advice: to not hesitate to try some passes, to play higher up the pitch and allow the team to play more offensive football.

You've won the Champions League four times with Real Madrid already…

We are aware that what we have done in the last few years is quite outstanding. It doesn’t happen very often. We also try to remember those days to know what worked, to try and gain something from that experience. We know that small details make a difference in big matches. We have a lot of experience of huge clashes, so we might be a bit more composed, although we’re always as determined as previously. And we know which traps not to fall into. That’s the kind of experience we’ve gained over the last few years. We also know that it’s difficult to always win and to always stay on top. Having said that, it’s still our goal and it runs in the club’s DNA, in our DNA. We always want to bounce back, move forward, and win.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Congratulations on winning the league title. It was an amazing feat winning ten straight games after the break before drawing on the final day. Things aren’t going badly at the moment…

I’m doing very well, thank you. Indeed, we managed to win this Liga, which was a bit of a special one. It wasn’t easy with the break, but we managed to adapt and to keep the winning streak going. It’s down to a great effort from the whole team, and we’re quite satisfied to have won La Liga in the end.

Karim Benzema has played a huge part in that success – with 26 goals in all competitions already this season.

He’s in top form right now. I’m not surprised by his qualities; everyone knows what they are, but he’s just making the most of them. He’s got great confidence; he’s at the top of his game. He’s our leader in attack. He brings a lot to us, not only through his goals but also his movements, his quality, and what he can create. He allows the team to put our game in place. He’s at a point where he combines experience, quality and physical fitness ... And he manages some assists, he creates movements, plus he’s efficient. He’s a very complete number 9.

Turning to the Champions League, there was an incredible intensity to the 2-1 loss to City in the first leg.

That sums it up nicely. It was a very high-level game with a lot of intensity, pressing from both teams, and it was won and lost on minor details. The slightest error can be fatal and can decide the game, and they managed to be more efficient than us. They managed to win it, but it was a very tight game, with two teams that like to knock the ball around and with a lot of intensity. Those are the best Champions League games; the ones which come down to very little. That’s also why we love this competition, because it’s played at a very, very high level … Towards the end of the game, though, maybe there was a little bit of slackness, maybe a little bit of tiredness, too. But I think that, overall, we controlled the game well. Unfortunately, at the end, we let the win slip through our fingers, but that game gave us a lot of confidence because we had managed to put in a really good display against a really good team.

Raphaël Varane celebrates his fourth Champions League triumph in 2018


What will it be like to face them in an empty stadium in Manchester?

It’ll be very different without the crowd, that’s for sure. Still, it’s an important competition. We always want to win. We are Real Madrid. We’ve managed to accumulate quite a lot of wins in a row, which has allowed us to get confident. We won’t play any matches right before it, so we’ll have time to get ready. The difference will be made by the team that shows the best form on the day. Having said that, we always approach those matches with a hunger to win and the right level of determination. It’ll be a tough match against a very good team. We’re expecting a competitive fight. We’ll prepare and we’ll do everything we can to be ready and to fight for it, like we always do in this competition.

A word on City centre-back and your compatriot Aymeric Laporte. What kind of player is he?

He’s very calm when he has the ball; he can play out well from the back, and his long passes are always good. He’s progressed a lot over the last few years. Getting to a club like Manchester City helped him to continue progressing.

How do you view your own development since arriving at Real Madrid in 2011?

I’m much more of an all-round player than when I got here. Every year, every season, I try to work on my weaknesses as well as work on my strengths. I try to get better in the creation of the game, in face-to-face play, and on a tactical level. I’ve always tried to get better and over the last nine years, I think I have continuously improved. I also try to be more decisive. I’m more mature now. This season, I’ve worked on my long game with my left foot. I try to improve small things like that because there’s always room for improvement.

What has your coach Zinédine Zidane brought to you, specifically, as a defender?

He’s pushed me to take risks, to try more things and play forward all the time; to be another offensive asset for the team. He also passes on confidence and serenity. It’s important to be supported by your coach, and he also gives advice: to not hesitate to try some passes, to play higher up the pitch and allow the team to play more offensive football.

You've won the Champions League four times with Real Madrid already…

We are aware that what we have done in the last few years is quite outstanding. It doesn’t happen very often. We also try to remember those days to know what worked, to try and gain something from that experience. We know that small details make a difference in big matches. We have a lot of experience of huge clashes, so we might be a bit more composed, although we’re always as determined as previously. And we know which traps not to fall into. That’s the kind of experience we’ve gained over the last few years. We also know that it’s difficult to always win and to always stay on top. Having said that, it’s still our goal and it runs in the club’s DNA, in our DNA. We always want to bounce back, move forward, and win.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Interview

Varane sets sights on City

Having just lifted his third Liga title with Real Madrid, Raphaël Varane now turns his attention towards the UEFA Champions League and the upcoming second leg round of 16 tie at Manchester City. Here, the 27-year-old discusses his approach heading into Friday’s big game and reflects upon his own development as a centre-back.

Congratulations on winning the league title. It was an amazing feat winning ten straight games after the break before drawing on the final day. Things aren’t going badly at the moment…

I’m doing very well, thank you. Indeed, we managed to win this Liga, which was a bit of a special one. It wasn’t easy with the break, but we managed to adapt and to keep the winning streak going. It’s down to a great effort from the whole team, and we’re quite satisfied to have won La Liga in the end.

Karim Benzema has played a huge part in that success – with 26 goals in all competitions already this season.

He’s in top form right now. I’m not surprised by his qualities; everyone knows what they are, but he’s just making the most of them. He’s got great confidence; he’s at the top of his game. He’s our leader in attack. He brings a lot to us, not only through his goals but also his movements, his quality, and what he can create. He allows the team to put our game in place. He’s at a point where he combines experience, quality and physical fitness ... And he manages some assists, he creates movements, plus he’s efficient. He’s a very complete number 9.

Turning to the Champions League, there was an incredible intensity to the 2-1 loss to City in the first leg.

That sums it up nicely. It was a very high-level game with a lot of intensity, pressing from both teams, and it was won and lost on minor details. The slightest error can be fatal and can decide the game, and they managed to be more efficient than us. They managed to win it, but it was a very tight game, with two teams that like to knock the ball around and with a lot of intensity. Those are the best Champions League games; the ones which come down to very little. That’s also why we love this competition, because it’s played at a very, very high level … Towards the end of the game, though, maybe there was a little bit of slackness, maybe a little bit of tiredness, too. But I think that, overall, we controlled the game well. Unfortunately, at the end, we let the win slip through our fingers, but that game gave us a lot of confidence because we had managed to put in a really good display against a really good team.

Raphaël Varane celebrates his fourth Champions League triumph in 2018


What will it be like to face them in an empty stadium in Manchester?

It’ll be very different without the crowd, that’s for sure. Still, it’s an important competition. We always want to win. We are Real Madrid. We’ve managed to accumulate quite a lot of wins in a row, which has allowed us to get confident. We won’t play any matches right before it, so we’ll have time to get ready. The difference will be made by the team that shows the best form on the day. Having said that, we always approach those matches with a hunger to win and the right level of determination. It’ll be a tough match against a very good team. We’re expecting a competitive fight. We’ll prepare and we’ll do everything we can to be ready and to fight for it, like we always do in this competition.

A word on City centre-back and your compatriot Aymeric Laporte. What kind of player is he?

He’s very calm when he has the ball; he can play out well from the back, and his long passes are always good. He’s progressed a lot over the last few years. Getting to a club like Manchester City helped him to continue progressing.

How do you view your own development since arriving at Real Madrid in 2011?

I’m much more of an all-round player than when I got here. Every year, every season, I try to work on my weaknesses as well as work on my strengths. I try to get better in the creation of the game, in face-to-face play, and on a tactical level. I’ve always tried to get better and over the last nine years, I think I have continuously improved. I also try to be more decisive. I’m more mature now. This season, I’ve worked on my long game with my left foot. I try to improve small things like that because there’s always room for improvement.

What has your coach Zinédine Zidane brought to you, specifically, as a defender?

He’s pushed me to take risks, to try more things and play forward all the time; to be another offensive asset for the team. He also passes on confidence and serenity. It’s important to be supported by your coach, and he also gives advice: to not hesitate to try some passes, to play higher up the pitch and allow the team to play more offensive football.

You've won the Champions League four times with Real Madrid already…

We are aware that what we have done in the last few years is quite outstanding. It doesn’t happen very often. We also try to remember those days to know what worked, to try and gain something from that experience. We know that small details make a difference in big matches. We have a lot of experience of huge clashes, so we might be a bit more composed, although we’re always as determined as previously. And we know which traps not to fall into. That’s the kind of experience we’ve gained over the last few years. We also know that it’s difficult to always win and to always stay on top. Having said that, it’s still our goal and it runs in the club’s DNA, in our DNA. We always want to bounce back, move forward, and win.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Congratulations on winning the league title. It was an amazing feat winning ten straight games after the break before drawing on the final day. Things aren’t going badly at the moment…

I’m doing very well, thank you. Indeed, we managed to win this Liga, which was a bit of a special one. It wasn’t easy with the break, but we managed to adapt and to keep the winning streak going. It’s down to a great effort from the whole team, and we’re quite satisfied to have won La Liga in the end.

Karim Benzema has played a huge part in that success – with 26 goals in all competitions already this season.

He’s in top form right now. I’m not surprised by his qualities; everyone knows what they are, but he’s just making the most of them. He’s got great confidence; he’s at the top of his game. He’s our leader in attack. He brings a lot to us, not only through his goals but also his movements, his quality, and what he can create. He allows the team to put our game in place. He’s at a point where he combines experience, quality and physical fitness ... And he manages some assists, he creates movements, plus he’s efficient. He’s a very complete number 9.

Turning to the Champions League, there was an incredible intensity to the 2-1 loss to City in the first leg.

That sums it up nicely. It was a very high-level game with a lot of intensity, pressing from both teams, and it was won and lost on minor details. The slightest error can be fatal and can decide the game, and they managed to be more efficient than us. They managed to win it, but it was a very tight game, with two teams that like to knock the ball around and with a lot of intensity. Those are the best Champions League games; the ones which come down to very little. That’s also why we love this competition, because it’s played at a very, very high level … Towards the end of the game, though, maybe there was a little bit of slackness, maybe a little bit of tiredness, too. But I think that, overall, we controlled the game well. Unfortunately, at the end, we let the win slip through our fingers, but that game gave us a lot of confidence because we had managed to put in a really good display against a really good team.

Raphaël Varane celebrates his fourth Champions League triumph in 2018


What will it be like to face them in an empty stadium in Manchester?

It’ll be very different without the crowd, that’s for sure. Still, it’s an important competition. We always want to win. We are Real Madrid. We’ve managed to accumulate quite a lot of wins in a row, which has allowed us to get confident. We won’t play any matches right before it, so we’ll have time to get ready. The difference will be made by the team that shows the best form on the day. Having said that, we always approach those matches with a hunger to win and the right level of determination. It’ll be a tough match against a very good team. We’re expecting a competitive fight. We’ll prepare and we’ll do everything we can to be ready and to fight for it, like we always do in this competition.

A word on City centre-back and your compatriot Aymeric Laporte. What kind of player is he?

He’s very calm when he has the ball; he can play out well from the back, and his long passes are always good. He’s progressed a lot over the last few years. Getting to a club like Manchester City helped him to continue progressing.

How do you view your own development since arriving at Real Madrid in 2011?

I’m much more of an all-round player than when I got here. Every year, every season, I try to work on my weaknesses as well as work on my strengths. I try to get better in the creation of the game, in face-to-face play, and on a tactical level. I’ve always tried to get better and over the last nine years, I think I have continuously improved. I also try to be more decisive. I’m more mature now. This season, I’ve worked on my long game with my left foot. I try to improve small things like that because there’s always room for improvement.

What has your coach Zinédine Zidane brought to you, specifically, as a defender?

He’s pushed me to take risks, to try more things and play forward all the time; to be another offensive asset for the team. He also passes on confidence and serenity. It’s important to be supported by your coach, and he also gives advice: to not hesitate to try some passes, to play higher up the pitch and allow the team to play more offensive football.

You've won the Champions League four times with Real Madrid already…

We are aware that what we have done in the last few years is quite outstanding. It doesn’t happen very often. We also try to remember those days to know what worked, to try and gain something from that experience. We know that small details make a difference in big matches. We have a lot of experience of huge clashes, so we might be a bit more composed, although we’re always as determined as previously. And we know which traps not to fall into. That’s the kind of experience we’ve gained over the last few years. We also know that it’s difficult to always win and to always stay on top. Having said that, it’s still our goal and it runs in the club’s DNA, in our DNA. We always want to bounce back, move forward, and win.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Congratulations on winning the league title. It was an amazing feat winning ten straight games after the break before drawing on the final day. Things aren’t going badly at the moment…

I’m doing very well, thank you. Indeed, we managed to win this Liga, which was a bit of a special one. It wasn’t easy with the break, but we managed to adapt and to keep the winning streak going. It’s down to a great effort from the whole team, and we’re quite satisfied to have won La Liga in the end.

Karim Benzema has played a huge part in that success – with 26 goals in all competitions already this season.

He’s in top form right now. I’m not surprised by his qualities; everyone knows what they are, but he’s just making the most of them. He’s got great confidence; he’s at the top of his game. He’s our leader in attack. He brings a lot to us, not only through his goals but also his movements, his quality, and what he can create. He allows the team to put our game in place. He’s at a point where he combines experience, quality and physical fitness ... And he manages some assists, he creates movements, plus he’s efficient. He’s a very complete number 9.

Turning to the Champions League, there was an incredible intensity to the 2-1 loss to City in the first leg.

That sums it up nicely. It was a very high-level game with a lot of intensity, pressing from both teams, and it was won and lost on minor details. The slightest error can be fatal and can decide the game, and they managed to be more efficient than us. They managed to win it, but it was a very tight game, with two teams that like to knock the ball around and with a lot of intensity. Those are the best Champions League games; the ones which come down to very little. That’s also why we love this competition, because it’s played at a very, very high level … Towards the end of the game, though, maybe there was a little bit of slackness, maybe a little bit of tiredness, too. But I think that, overall, we controlled the game well. Unfortunately, at the end, we let the win slip through our fingers, but that game gave us a lot of confidence because we had managed to put in a really good display against a really good team.

Raphaël Varane celebrates his fourth Champions League triumph in 2018


What will it be like to face them in an empty stadium in Manchester?

It’ll be very different without the crowd, that’s for sure. Still, it’s an important competition. We always want to win. We are Real Madrid. We’ve managed to accumulate quite a lot of wins in a row, which has allowed us to get confident. We won’t play any matches right before it, so we’ll have time to get ready. The difference will be made by the team that shows the best form on the day. Having said that, we always approach those matches with a hunger to win and the right level of determination. It’ll be a tough match against a very good team. We’re expecting a competitive fight. We’ll prepare and we’ll do everything we can to be ready and to fight for it, like we always do in this competition.

A word on City centre-back and your compatriot Aymeric Laporte. What kind of player is he?

He’s very calm when he has the ball; he can play out well from the back, and his long passes are always good. He’s progressed a lot over the last few years. Getting to a club like Manchester City helped him to continue progressing.

How do you view your own development since arriving at Real Madrid in 2011?

I’m much more of an all-round player than when I got here. Every year, every season, I try to work on my weaknesses as well as work on my strengths. I try to get better in the creation of the game, in face-to-face play, and on a tactical level. I’ve always tried to get better and over the last nine years, I think I have continuously improved. I also try to be more decisive. I’m more mature now. This season, I’ve worked on my long game with my left foot. I try to improve small things like that because there’s always room for improvement.

What has your coach Zinédine Zidane brought to you, specifically, as a defender?

He’s pushed me to take risks, to try more things and play forward all the time; to be another offensive asset for the team. He also passes on confidence and serenity. It’s important to be supported by your coach, and he also gives advice: to not hesitate to try some passes, to play higher up the pitch and allow the team to play more offensive football.

You've won the Champions League four times with Real Madrid already…

We are aware that what we have done in the last few years is quite outstanding. It doesn’t happen very often. We also try to remember those days to know what worked, to try and gain something from that experience. We know that small details make a difference in big matches. We have a lot of experience of huge clashes, so we might be a bit more composed, although we’re always as determined as previously. And we know which traps not to fall into. That’s the kind of experience we’ve gained over the last few years. We also know that it’s difficult to always win and to always stay on top. Having said that, it’s still our goal and it runs in the club’s DNA, in our DNA. We always want to bounce back, move forward, and win.

Penalty Pedigree

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