Atletico boss Diego Simeone said Raphael Varane was a worthy Ballon d'Or winner

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have contested the Ballon d’Or awards for more than a decade now, with the Manchester United forward winning five.

Messi has seven, even though his recent win was highly controversial. The one year neither player won was 2018, when the award went to Croatia midfielder Luka Modric.

As usual, not everybody was happy with this decision, and Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone was one of those who felt it should have gone elsewhere.

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Simeone backed Varane

Manchester United take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 after Monday’s re-draw. This pits Simeone up against Varane again.

Speaking in 2018 via Goal, Simeone said: “Everyone can choose who he thinks is the most appropriate. We congratulate Modric; he had a very good season. For me, the best were Varane and Griezmann.”

Simeone was speaking in a year in which Varane won the Champions League with Real Madrid and the World Cup with France.

Varane left Real for Manchester United in the summer after a decade at Real Madrid, in which he had numerous deals with Simeone’s Atletico.

In his 25 matches against Atletico, Varane has 10 wins, 8 draws, and 7 defeats, and has never scored, or been sent off against them.

Varane has been out injured for the past two months, although is on the verge of a return after being pictured in training last week.

While there is an outside chance he features against Brighton at the weekend if the game is on, a more likely return date is against Newcastle United on December 27, a side he has already faced once in a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford in early September.

The Frenchman has played nine games for Manchester United since joining, helping to keep two clean sheets during those appearances.

United’s defence has shown recent improvement under Ralf Rangnick, with back to back clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time this season.

By time the Champions League ties with Atletico Madrid come around, Varane is expected to be United’s clear first choice, and the debate will turn to who should partner him. All the defender needs to do is stay injury free.

Not always pretty with Simeone

Varane’s history with Diego Simeone has not always been pleasant. The pair had to be separated during the 2014 Champions League final.

Simeone took exception to Real celebrating the fourth extra-time goal and chased Varane down to make his views clear.

Ronaldo leading United has the potential to spark more fireworks against Atletico, and Varane won’t be far away.

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