5 defenders Man Utd could target to replace Raphael Varane

  • Raphael Varane will leave Man Utd as a free agent this summer
  • Red Devils expected to pursue at least one new centre-back in Sir Jim Ratcliffe's first transfer window
  • Analysing five potential targets for Erik ten Hag's side
Varane will leave Man Utd this summer
Varane will leave Man Utd this summer / Visionhaus/GettyImages

One of the first jobs for Sir Jim Ratcliffe during his maiden transfer window at the helm of Manchester United will be to find a replacement for the departing Raphael Varane.

Heading into the final round of fixtures of the 2023/24 season, United confirmed that Varane would depart for pastures new this summer after three years at Old Trafford.

His time in Manchester didn't exactly go to plan, with the Frenchman failing to replicate the immense success he enjoyed during his time with Real Madrid, but United cannot afford to waste time wondering what went wrong.

The Red Devils are braced for their third summer rebuild in as many years and they were expected to pursue a new centre-back even before confirmation of Varane's exit emerged.

Raphael Varane
Man Utd will need to replace Varane / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Just how many defenders end up following Varane out the exit door remains to be seen. Jonny Evans' contract is up this summer, while there have long been questions about Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof's futures at the club. Even young Willy Kambwala may see a loan deal as the best move for his emerging career.

Clearly, recruiting at least one new centre-back is of the utmost importance to Ratcliffe and INEOS, who are ready to make a major statement in their first transfer window at the helm.

So, with that in mind, here are five defenders United could look at this summer.

Jonathan Tah

Jonathan Tah
Tah could depart Leverkusen this summer / Stefan Matzke - sampics/GettyImages
  • Current club: Bayer Leverkusen
  • Likely fee: £17m

Jonathan Tah was an integral part of Bayer Leverkusen's Bundesliga success this year and, after nine years with the club, may see this summer as a natural end to his tenure with Xabi Alonso's side.

The 28-year-old has just enjoyed a sensational campaign but could be available for a bargain fee of around £17m, with reports indicating the presence of a release clause as he enters the final 12 months of his deal.

That's clearly a bargain for a player of Tah's high-level experience, even if he isn't the superstar name many fans would hope to see come through the entry door at Old Trafford this summer.

Bayer Leverkusen want to offer him a new contract but have publicly admitted they will sell Tah if he does not extend before the start of next season. This one definitely feels possible, and for that sort of money, there would even be room for another new face at the back.

Antonio Silva

Antonio Silva
Silva is one of Europe's best young defenders / Gualter Fatia/GettyImages
  • Current club: Benfica
  • Likely fee: £86m

20-year-old Benfica centre-back Antonio Silva is widely seen as one of the best young defenders in the world, and that is reflected in his price tag.

Benfica do not want to lose the youngster and have been pointing suitors to the £86m release clause in his contract. United would need to sell players to be able to finance such a deal but could try and negotiate a deal with Benfica which would allow them to spread the fee out over a number of years. Reports even suggest the Portuguese side would be prepared to do business for closer to £70m.

That's a huge sum of money, but one which United may have no choice but to pay if they truly want to make a statement under Ratcliffe and INEOS.

The likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Bayern Munich have all been credited with interest in Silva, which could spark an almighty bidding war.

Ronald Araujo

Ronald Araujo
Araujo would be a huge signing / Alex Caparros/GettyImages
  • Current club: Barcelona
  • Likely fee: £86m

United have long admired Ronald Araujo from a distance but are well aware of the main stumbling block with this deal - how much does he actually want to join?

Barcelona have publicly showered Araujo with immense praise but, with their huge financial issues still clear to see, they could be tempted to part ways with the Uruguay international who, at 25 years old, remains one of the most valuable assets in the squad.

Having learned their lessons from the chase for Frenkie de Jong, United do not want to spend all summer trying to convince someone to join them. Either they want to move to Old Trafford or they don't, it's as simple as that. As a result, this one may need to be sparked by Araujo, who is entering the final two years of his contract.

If Araujo does hit the market, expect an almighty scramble for his signature. He was arguably the best defender on the planet last year, and despite regressing this year, still boasts an incredibly high reputation.

Tosin Adarabioyo

Tosin Adarabioyo
Tosin could be a bargain / Alex Davidson/GettyImages
  • Current club: Fulham
  • Likely fee: Free

There are far more glamorous names available to United this summer, but few could prove as effective for the Red Devils as Tosin Adarabioyo.

What you get from Tosin, who will leave Fulham as a free agent, is a guarantee of success in the Premier League. He boasts close to 100 appearances in England's top flight and 200 overall in his senior career and would not need any time at all to adjust to the way things work in the Premier League.

Tosin, who came through the Manchester City academy, also counts as a homegrown player when it comes to squad registration, making him an incredibly valuable asset for United as they seek to bolster their dressing room with the best talents from across the globe.

There is plenty of competition for Tosin's signature for those exact reasons. This is a potential bargain which could allow bigger sums to be spent elsewhere. If United want a big-money midfielder, winger or striker, this is the sort of move they need to make.

Leny Yoro

Leny Yoro
Yoro is seen as a future superstar / ANP/GettyImages
  • Current club: Lille
  • Likely fee: £50m

Leny Yoro seemed destined to join Real Madrid, who themselves saw the 18-year-old as their next Varane, but those links have cooled in recent weeks and United need to be doing all they can to get him to the negotiating table.

Yoro is the clear star in Lille's defence already and is expected to go on to huge things further down the line, but he finds himself at a key crossroads of his career already as he approaches the final 12 months of his contract.

Reports have claimed Lille want the best part of £100m to sell Yoro but that figure could likely be negotiated well down due to the risk of losing the teenager for free next year. Lille's business model revolves around making one big sale every year, so they cannot afford to let Yoro walk. Something will have to give.

Yoro's career could easily follow a similar path to Varane, who joined Madrid at 18 and became unattainable for the next ten years as he blossomed into a superstar. If United want him, this may be the only chance they get for the next decade.