Raphael Varane has admitted his life changed from the moment he joined Real Madrid as an 18-year-old in June 2011.
The French central defender, who was signed from Lens for a reported €10m, spoke of his early impressions at the club and how it felt to be among a team of superstars at such a tender age.
“Strangely enough I didn’t know what it would be like until I arrived at [Madrid airport] Barajas and saw 60 journalists waiting for me. I quickly realised the change was going to be severe,” said Varane in an interview with France Football.
“Nothing was going to be like it was before and I wasn’t expecting it. When you are 18 it’s not obvious and I wasn’t ready to live that way.
“To be honest it took me time to accept it and get used to the consequences of my decision [to sign]. At that time I was getting ready to enter a dressing room full of all these stars and the media pressure scared me a little,” he admitted.
Varane says that when he was a youngster he never envisioned himself becoming a professional footballer and just enjoyed playing the game.
“I finally played professionally at 17 and then at 19 with Real Madrid, but it was something I couldn’t have imagined because I was never a kid who thought he was going to do that.
“I didn’t think of it until later, as I was just focused on the joy of playing and being in the dressing room with my teammates.
“There are a lot of young people that dream of a career like that but I was happy at Lens.”
Training in such exalted company was also a big step for Varane, who conceded he had to learn quickly to become part of the group.
“Above all I needed to open my eyes and learn fast. I told myself I couldn’t ask my teammates for their shirts.
“I also had to show I wasn’t beneath them and I was good enough to form part of the squad, that I wasn’t entitled to relax, and right from the first session I didn’t let go and was really focused.
“I told myself that this was the very highest level and I must be at my very best all the time. I learned fast.
“Now if I want a shirt it’s a lot easier,” he joked.