Real Madrid centre back Raphael Varane has revealed how Jose Mourinho helped him come out of a slump during the early stages of his time at the Bernabeu.
Mourinho signed Varane from Ligue 1 side Lens back in 2011 and the Frenchman has gone on to make 120 La Liga appearances, claiming two titles and three Champions League winner’s medals in the process.
The 54-year-old approached Varane upon being appointed Man United manager last year to no avail, with the defender later explaining that Zinedine Zidane had convinced him to stay in Spain.
Nevertheless, Varane clearly still holds the Portuguese in high esteem after helping him during the nascent stages of his time at Madrid.
“I endured a little bit of a weird period, it was in Mourinho’s time in charge,” he said. “I did not know at the beginning of the season why I was not playing.”
“I did not play well in training and I did not play games either. I spoke to the manager and he asked me: ‘What’s wrong, why are not you okay, why are not you at your level?’
“And I answered: ‘I don’t know, I’m trying, but things aren’t working out and I’m missing some faith in myself.’
“Then, three days later, at the age of 19, he put me in the starting line-up against Manchester City. It was a very complicated game and I don’t know if Jose Mourinho knew my personality, but I took it as a challenge.
“The match went very well and from there everything started to go better, I changed a lot.”
Mourinho often receives criticism for the way he treats particular players – especially youngsters – and a lot of that comes down to the fact that, on the face of it, he comes across as a largely unapproachable, abrasive figure. Somebody who would never look you in the eye again if you made a sloppy back-pass.
But beneath the surly persona and the Machiavellian drama he creates around himself, the boss harbours a seemingly innate capacity for getting through to people and under their skin – but for the right purpose.
And he knew exactly what a confidence strapped yet extremely talented Varane needed at that moment in time: to stop thinking and start playing.
The defender’s record since then shows that he hasn’t looked back.