Only five of the 168 captains who posted votes for FIFA’s terribly named The Best award named Raphael Varane as the leading player in world football.
Two of those five, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric, spent last year playing alongside Varane at Real Madrid, while Hugo Lloris is his national team captain.
Gambia captain Pa Modou Jagne and Mauritius skipper Jean-Louis Kevin were the only unbiased first place votes Varane received.
Unbiased they might be but, as defender and goalkeeper respectively, Jagne and Kevin understand more than most what Varane brings to the table.
It’s no surprise that members of the Defender’s Union stick up for one another.
These awards, whether it be The Best or the Ballon d’Or, are overwhelmingly weighted in favour of attackers.
Luka Modric might have been named the world’s best player last night, but you have to go back to 2007 to find the last time Lionel Messi or Ronaldo’s name wasn’t etched onto the main individual honour.
On that occasion it was another midfielder- Brazil and AC Milan’s Kaka- who was picking up the Ballon d’Or.
Even on that occasion, when Ronaldo and Messi weren’t quite the G.O.A.Ts they are today, you have to go down to 15th place to find a defender, if you can call Dani Alves that.
As for centre-backs, Fabio Cannavaro finished joint 24th with five points.
Let’s remind ourselves of what Varane did from the start of last season, when voting opened, to the end of the World Cup, when voting finished.
Varane picked up Champions League trophy number four with Madrid, squeezing it into his trophy cabinet alongside a UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and Spanish Super Cup.
He then lifted the World Cup with France. In doing so he’s now one of just four players, all of whom played for Madrid at the time, to win the World Cup and Champions League in the same year.
But to talk about Varane purely in terms of the trophies he won last season would be doing the man a disservice.
It’s the style Varane plays with, the authority he brings to any defence he marshals, that marks him out as one of the true greats of the modern game.
Varane took minimal time settling in to life at Madrid- a club who’ve chewed up and spat out experienced pros- when he arrived from Lens in 2011.
Now, at 25, he’s one of the most composed defenders in world football. That’s saying something given he lines up alongside Sergio Ramos, who sings from his own hymn sheet, most weeks.
Modric is a worthy recipient of the award. He has consistently toyed with the best midfielders as if it were a game down Hackney Marshes.
Varane isn’t necessarily the best player in world football, either. But he’s certainly better than five first place votes.
So let’s here it for the defenders. The men putting out the fires, rather than starting them. We haven’t forgotten you.
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