In the absence of Hugo Lloris, victim of a right thigh injury, Raphaël Varane opened the ball for questions and answers on Wednesday afternoon at the Stade de France. On the eve of wearing the France team’s armband for the 19th time, Thursday evening against Austria, the Manchester United defender did not show concern about the cascade of injuries which will prevent the Blues from making a life-size rehearsal before the World Cup (November 20 – December 18).
You are used to playing with great goalkeepers. How is Mike Maignan one?
RAPHAEL VARANE. Beyond his qualities, Mike brings a lot of serenity. He is a quiet person, sure of his strength. It’s important for defenders to feel that kind of thing. He also has explosiveness, a good footwork, presence, in short, all the qualities of a modern goalkeeper.
As a framework at the heart of the discussions in this case, what do you want to see added to the convention of image rights which has been debated this week?
It’s quite simple: as a group, we want to respect the individual rights of each player. It is a simple, logical and legitimate request. It’s just an update to avoid bugs in the future. The discussions have progressed and we hope that everything will be settled as soon as possible because we don’t want to waste energy on this. It’s progressing well and it’s very positive.
Due to a large number of injuries, many novices are now in the group. Is it, in fact, necessary to close ranks more than usual?
The fact that there are a lot of new people, a very young group, as the World Cup approaches, it’s an important moment to continue to have a collective state of mind. We know from experience that the strength of the group makes it possible to win major competitions. We don’t hesitate to talk a lot and the two games to come will be mainly with the aim of having common benchmarks and being stronger together.
How do you view Dembélé’s return to Blue?
I’m very happy to see him back at this level. He has extraordinary qualities. He still has this joie de vivre, he brings freshness to the group. He is calm, calm. He found the recipe to chain. He has had difficult times with injuries, he has the chance to continue and we see him flourishing.
What do you feel for Paul Pogba, currently immersed in the heart of a sad affair?
Obviously, I’m not going to talk about the legal part, but he’s a friend so I support him. He faces challenges, including recovering from his injury. He is an extraordinary player, we want to see him flourishing on the pitch.
A final gathering usually serves as the final rehearsal. Difficult with so many absences…
We have to adapt, there were 12 injuries, it’s huge. But don’t be surprised, we’ve been talking about overloaded calendars for years. This year, it’s even more intense. But you have to adapt and prepare as best you can. We need common benchmarks and collective strength.
Aurélien Tchouaméni takes on a new dimension. What’s different about him compared to Pogba and Kanté?
First, I think we can salute his quick adaptation to a club like Real Madrid. I know from experience how difficult it is. He has the maturity and the qualities for it, hats off to him. Then, he is a very complete player. He has the ability to defend well, protect the defense, and also the ability to organize the game. He does not hesitate, from his first selections, to ask for the ball, to impose the tempo in the midfield. He is already very mature, I wish him to stay the course, to continue like this, because what he is doing is already extraordinary.
“The most important thing is to succeed in defending together”
How do you view your start to the season in Manchester?
I take great pleasure. Last season was irregular. There, we get good results and above all we enjoy playing and fighting together. I came to England to experience such emotions. Every match is a fight, I like that. The fact of having had a complete pre-season makes it possible to be well on the ground.
Is this group suitable for a three-man defense?
Three or four, the most important thing is to succeed in defending together and to be compact on the ground. We can play in different systems, we players adapt. There, we had little time to prepare. But it is up to us to make the system live. At four, I’m more used to it. At three, we must coordinate in a different way and distribute the roles effectively. There are quality players who can adapt to both systems.
Do you feel like you have fewer benchmarks and are you worried about having to start without a net against Australia?
Before the 2018 World Cup, we had not had very good results in March. We had some criticism. Then we saw that when the competition started, we saw a great collective strength that allowed us to go all the way. There is no particular concern today, we know that when the competition starts it is something else. Above all, you will have to be physically ready and then create benchmarks. It can be done even in a short time. I’m not worried about the lack of preparation.
The captains will wear an armband against exclusion. France too?
Yes it is an initiative of different European federations so tomorrow I will wear a slightly different armband. For me it is an honor to defend these values. It’s a common message, it’s good to have this unity. We are adversaries, but we fight together.