Raphael Varane has reflected on his rise at Real Madrid and on the dangers that Borussia Dortmund represent in the Champions League.
Los Blancos travel out to Germany this week for the first leg of their semi-final against Dortmund, with their young defender more than aware of what to expect.
“Dortmund are a team that love to attack, so we must be strong and play very well,” commented Varane to UEFA’s official magazine this month.
“We managed to get out of a very difficult group. The game that really launched my season was the one against Manchester City.
“I started in the Champions League and then the team made it out of the group. We managed to eliminate Manchester United in the Round of 16 - we knocked out Galatasaray in the quarter-finals. We must keep up the good run until the final and try to win it.”
The youngster reflected on his earliest memory of the Champions League.
“It was Zizou's volley. It's the first thing that comes to mind. I remember us watching the Champions League all together when I was in the youth academy, the most exciting moments, cheering our teams on. Great memories.”
Zinedine Zidane played a part in helping Madrid sign Varane from Lens in 2011.
“Did I expect the call from Madrid? No. Not at all.... I received a few offers from other clubs, but to have Real Madrid knocking... I couldn't have ever imagined that.
“The move? It's all thanks to Zizou and to the Coach. Zizou was my first contact. Then the Coach presented an interesting project to me.
“He proposed to me to work together, and gave me his confidence.”
Since the turn of the year Varane has held down a first-team jersey at Madrid.
“It would have been difficult to imagine that [at the start of the season]. But everything goes so fast in football.
“You must prepare for things like that. At the beginning of my career it went really fast for me, and I am prepared to take the next steps one by one quite quickly. I am prepared for that.
“The key to my success? You need to bring calm and confidence to your team. This is a key position, and you must bring some security, that's very important.
“You must also communicate well and have a good sense of positioning. In this position you play a lot with your head, you have to think a lot, these are important skills to possess.”
Play the world's most challenging Fantasy Football Game by building your Team from Europe's best 5 leagues. Pick your favourite stars including Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to compete against friends.