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That time Bayern Munich rejected Raphael Varane for just €5m

Another instance of “could have been”? Varane is one of the best center backs in the world today.

FBL-EUR-C1-BAYERN MUNICH-REAL MADRID Photo credit should read JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

A few days ago, BFW published an article on four “what-ifs” that could have changed the season for Bayern Munich. Today, we can add one more to the list. According to former right-back Willy Sangol, Bayern could have signed Raphael Varane from RC Lens, before the youngster went to Real Madrid. The 18-year-old went on to become one of the best center backs in the game, winning the world cup and multiple Champions League titles.

How did such a blunder come to pass? Speaking to a program on RMC, Sagnol explained what happened: (via Fussball Transfers)

One day a friend called me and said, “You absolutely have to take a look at a super-interesting young player. I immediately saw how mature Varane was. When I passed everything on to the club, I was told that he was still too expensive for an 18-year-old. Two months later Varane went to Real Madrid for €10 million.

Judging by the ages listed, this must have taken place back in 2011, when Bayern were in tough shape following a disastrous season by Louis van Gaal. Jupp Heynckes steadied the boat that year, and the Bavarians bought a 22-year-old Jerome Boateng from Manchester City as defensive reinforcement, in addition to Rafinha and Manuel Neuer for an aggressive summer spend of almost 50 million euros.

In that context, the decision not to go for Varane makes much more sense in hindsight. Bayern chose a more proven quantity in Boateng, who had the advantage of being German, proven in the league, and came for a relatively low transfer fee. Boateng himself became a worthy acquisition for the club, cementing himself as a world class defender and winning the treble and world cup.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Final - Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich - Wembley Stadium Photo by Mike Egerton - PA Images via Getty Images

Was it a bad decision?

Of course, a question of “what if” still lingers. If Bayern had bought Varane instead of Boateng, could they have won the Champions League that year? After all, it was Boateng’s mistake that led to Drogba’s equalizer in the final that shall not be named. Would the Frenchman have done better on that corner?

On the other hand, the young Varane did not come into his own until the 14/15 season. Up until then, he was still riding the bench at the Bernabeu. In the meantime, Boateng had established himself as the best center back in the world, and was excelling under the strict supervision of Pep Guardiola. Would Bayern have been equally successful with an inexperienced Varane at the helm, instead of the rock-steady Boateng in his prime?

Finally, Varane himself handed Bayern two defeats in back to back seasons in the Champions League. Given how excruciatingly close both those ties were, could having Varane tipped the balance in Bayern’s favor? Who can say? in the end, we can debate these things until the cows come home, but the fact is that football is a funny game. At the level that Bayern operates at, recruiting depends on a significant amount of luck. Sometimes, you will just end up making the wrong choice.

Every club has stories like these, where they missed out on a player who became a gem later in their career — Bayern is no different. There’s no point in getting hung up on these things, it’s best to look forward and hope for the best.

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