“I have been thinking about it for several months and decided that it was the right time for me to retire from international football,” published Raphael Varane on his Instagram account, in a surprise announcement.
Still one of the best defenders in the game, despite some shaky moments of form, Varane was part of the French side that made the World Cup final for the second straight tournament. Yet he has decided to step aside for the new generation.
It is a decision that hasn’t necessarily gone down well in France. Diario AS carried Jerome Rothen’s comments, which were less than complementary.
“I think that at this age and when you play in a club that allows you to be at a very high level, you have a duty. It’s to bring your talent to your country. He’s a disaster. He has a long history, congratulations! He won the most beautiful of competitions, the World Cup in 2018. We saw all his contribution to the last World Cup.”
“There was scepticism because he was coming off an injury, but he performed very well. But I tell myself: what a decision! It’s a disaster to hear that, not to wearing the national team shirt again at 29. He can’t do that. Raphael, don’t forget you brought a lot, but here you are doing something stupid! The competition? He put players in his pocket. It’s a major madness within this group.”
Rothen did try to nuance his criticism with perhaps an ulterior motive for Varane’s decision.
“I can only think of one reason for him stopping at 29, it is because the atmosphere of the French must not be good. Which France national team player stopped at the age of 29?”
Les Bleus are notoriously a difficult dressing to survive in. Paul Pogba and Adrien Rabiot, and their parents have been involved in bust-ups in the past. While there were no major incidents during the tournament, there were supposedly warring factions within the squad at the Qatar World Cup too.
Ahead of the tournament though, there was definitely a sense of unease over Karim Benzema’s late departure from the squad. Despite picking up a muscle injury, Benzema would likely have recovered for the quarter-final, and Didier Deschamps did not call up a replacement. A day after the tournament, Benzema retired.