x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Spanish clubs want a bite of the French toast

Young players from France, such as Varane and Kondogbia, are impressing at the Primera Liga teams, writes Andy Mitten.

Ralph Varane has put in some good performances for Real Madrid. Manu Fernandez / AP Photo
Ralph Varane has put in some good performances for Real Madrid. Manu Fernandez / AP Photo

Raphael Varane is 19, French and used to play for Lens. Geoffrey Kondogbia is 20, French and also played for Lens, with Varane.

The northern French town of 40,000 may be football crazy, with average attendances often exceeding the population of the town, but they are now in the second division and selling their best emerging players.

Varane and Kondogbia left Lens to head for Spain, but they still call each other brothers and they meet when they play for France.

Varane, a central defender, has been one of the revelations of the season; man-of-the match performances for Real Madrid against Barcelona brought him global attention.

Kondogbia, a defensive midfielder, has a lower profile of the two, as befits a Sevilla player, but Real Madrid would like to have him, too, to bolster their central midfield and provide cover to Xabi Alonso.

Sevilla do not want to sell a player who has been one of the few bright spots of a poor season in which they have won just one of 16 away games and sit 10th the league, but Madrid have a history of buying their best young players, as Sergio Ramos will testify.

Sevilla can no longer offer those players European football and, like many Spanish clubs, face financial pressures to sell.

Borussia Dortmund have offered €18 million (Dh86.1m) for their top scorer, Alvaro Negredo, fourth in the league in goals behind only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao. Madrid will offer €8m for Kondogbia, a player who cost €3m last year.

Sevilla will ask for €20m - though they own only 50 per cent of his economic rights. They already have been offered more than €8m by both Milan giants, who have witnessed the impact made by another young French midfielder. Paul Pogba is the 20-year-old former Le Havre and Manchester United player who has thrived at Juventus this season.

Spain is renown for producing its own world-class footballers, but France has a generation of youngsters who are already at the top level, something neither Xavi or Andres Iniesta could say until they were 23.

Kondogbia is in demand. The idea of him sitting on the bench at the Bernabeu may appeal less than playing every week for the other Madrid side, Atletico.

He has a chance to impress on Sunday when Sevilla entertain Diego Simeone's team.


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