Raphael Varane’s long awaited transfer to Manchester United is imminent. And there could be an overdue knock-on effect.
Di Marzio reported last night that Varane will sign a five-year deal with United, after the two clubs reached an agreement. United and Real Madrid are yet to confirm this.
Varane will need to be assigned a shirt number, and that is when it will be crunch time for Phil Jones.
Jones wears number 4 for United, although we don’t say that literally. He has not worn the number in a United shirt since January 2020 after terrible luck with injuries.
While there is some sympathy from United fans towards Jones, it only extends so far.
Jones has not even been pictured back in training for pre-season, despite being spotted back in April. This suggests he has either suffered a setback, or has simply been told not to bother.
Time to give the shirt up
Varane wore the number four shirt for France when they won the World Cup, and recently at Euro 2020.
For Real Madrid, Ramos wore four, and Varane wore 5.
With 5 worn at Manchester United by Harry Maguire, Varane needs an alternative, and 4 is the best option considering he has worn it for France previously.
One alternative may be that if Eric Bailly leaves, Varane could get the number 3. But there is no quick timeframe on this with the Ivorian at the Olympics.
Varane is likely to sign within days and United will need to make a swift decision before the season starts.
The lowest available squad numbers are 12, last worn by Chris Smalling, and 16, last worn by Marcos Rojo. Then you get to 24, vacated earlier this year by Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
While possibly Varane could be assigned 12, it doesn’t really sit right that Jones would be taking up 4, and will not play a single minute in 2021/22, like last season.
United need to be ruthless
Extending Phil Jones’ contract was a bizarre decision at the time, and it looks even worse right now.
While there is just one more year remaining on his deal (United surely won’t take up the option to extend further to 2023), the club need to give him a nudge towards the exit door now.
Taking away his shirt number to give to Varane could be the not so subtle hint Jones needs.
Jones will be difficult, impossible, to sell. United could loan him away though, and make some savings on his wages. An alternative is simply to pay up his contract and let him try and push on as a free agent.
The defender may have some good years of football left in him, but even if he gets fit, it won’t be at United. The bar is simply too high.
Jones was signed an alternative to Varane in 2011 after the deal for the Frenchman fell through. Now the Frenchman’s arrival will signal that it is time up.
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