During a question and answer session for The Daily Mail, Martin Keown was asked "Who is the most valuable defender nowadays?"
His answer hinted that he currently disagrees with Carlo Ancelotti's team selection at Real Madrid. "There are a lot of good players out there but I think potentially the best young defender in the world is Raphael Varane at Real Madrid. He is behind Sergio Ramos and Pepe at Real Madrid but I can’t help but think that’s not in the best long-term interest of the club."
Ramos and Pepe have been the central partnership in defence for some time now, but Varane is pushing them close. The Frenchman has started just eleven games this season with three of them coming in the Champions League. He is only 20-years-old but Keown feels he should certainly be ahead of Pepe in the side.
"Madrid have an abundance of riches in defence though I think Pepe is quite lucky to be in the team at the minute with that young man on the bench. I would not be surprised if Varane becomes a better player than him and Ramos."
Varane will almost certainly be on the plane to Brazil in the summer with France and he will hope to play an important part for them. He will face competition from Laurent Koscielny, Adil Rami, Eliaquim Mangala and Mahamadou Sakho though.
Given that Madrid signed Varane from Lens for around £10 million it looks as if that purchase could prove to be one of their smartest additions to the squad in recent years. Keown believes he is very mature for his age and this has been echoed by other leading pundits.
"Varane has great intelligence and reads the game well but he’s quick and is able to make himself favourite to win the ball. If he senses the ball is going into a channel, he gets his body shape correct like a sprinter and can make sure he gets there. His passing is now very good and he’s a big man too, so if he can improve in the air he could become brilliant."
Former Chelsea defender Frank Lebouef believes Varane can become even better than Real Madrid legend Fernando Hierro. "Many compare him to Hierro due to his technique, but on the physical level he is stronger and he is much faster.”