Former France international centre-back Raphaël Varane (29) gave a wide-ranging interview with GQ France. The Manchester United defender surprised many when he announced his international retirement last month, at only 29. Varane explained he hung up his France boots due to physical and mental wear and tear.
The Lille-born player was close to not making France’s squad for the 2022 World Cup after sustaining a knee injury in October. Varane was not 100% fit when playing in Qatar. Deep in extra time against Argentina in the final, he collapsed with exhaustion. “We often use the expression ‘give everything’ in the locker room, and this was literally the case”, Varane said.
It was the final game of Varane’s international career. “A lot of players said to me ‘Oh how lucky you are to have a break during the season'”, assessed the 2018 World Cup winner with France. “It’s timely because it is a dreadful season physically and mentally. We haven’t stopped playing since early July and we’re really on the edge. This break does a lot of good and will allow me to regenerate a little.”
According to the Lille-born player, who revealed he wants to finish his career at either Manchester United or Lens, players at the highest level are overworked. And the future looks bleak with more football games, as shown by the new format of the 48-team World Cup or of the 36-team Champions League. “I’m afraid that we will witness much shorter careers and that French players will have to give up the France team very early because, physically or mentally, what we are asking for today is simply over the limit.”
Varane believes that the ever-extending, gruelling schedules will have long-lasting consequences on players’ welfare. “Believe me, all the international players who feature in European competitions and never stop playing go through periods of poor form that last several months, or they get injured. The youths who start in the France team, those who have played in the World Cup, will have to make a lot of sacrifices if they want to stay on top for ten years. And if it’s harder than what I’ve experienced…”
GFFN | Bastien Cheval