The MEN understands Madrid are pessimistic about the possibility of Varane, 27, accepting their offer of a new contract and would rather obtain a fee in the summer than let him leave on a free next year. Varane believes there is still too great a difference between his salary offer and what his best-paid teammates are earning.
Real have included the club captaincy in their terms to Varane but the centre-back is open to leaving after a garlanded 10-year career at the Bernabeu.
Accounts in January revealed Madrid’s debt has risen to €901m, with a net debt of €355m, and the club need to cut costs if they are to finance the dream signing of Paris Saint-Germain phenomenon Kylian Mbappe. Skipper Sergio Ramos could be released after 16 years in the summer.
United have prioritised signing a centre half to partner Harry Maguire in the summer transfer window and have a preference for experience. Varane turns 28 in April and has been a long-standing target of United’s.
The United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was prepared to sanction a £100million move for Varane following the 2018 World Cup, but the four-times Champions League winner’s value was well in excess of that figure at the time and United fatefully failed to sign a centre-back that summer.
Woodward informally discussed transfer business with the Real Madrid president Florentino Perez over breakfast in Miami on the eve of the clubs’ pre-season friendly in July, but United have not dealt with Madrid since the club-record £59.7m signing of Angel Di Maria in 2014.
Despite the calamitous collapse of David de Gea’s protracted move to Madrid in 2015, Woodward and Perez have remained on good terms and exchanged gifts prior to United and Madrid’s pre-season friendly in San Jose in 2017.
Varane does not turn 28 until next month and fits into United’s ideal age bracket of 23-28 for targets. He has won four Champions Leagues, three La Liga titles, the Copa del Rey and four Club World Cups with Madrid and started in all seven of France’s matches in their triumphant 2018 World Cup campaign.
Sir Alex Ferguson was poised to sign Varane from Lens in 2011 when he was 18 but Real’s sporting director Zinedine Zidane intervened and Varane joined Madrid for €10m. United instead signed Phil Jones for £16.5m.
Mourinho worked with Varane for two years as coach of Madrid and would have relished a reunion at United but never felt Varane was an attainable target.
At a recruitment meeting prior to their fraught 2018 window, Woodward touted Varane and the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti as elite options but Mourinho did not consider either of them to be realistic targets.