The ‘Utopia’ issue of our new special edition print publication, SoccerBible Volumes, is loaded with superstars of the game – but only one of them can lay claim to being a World Cup and four-time Champions League winner. That man is the one and only Raphaël Varane.

There is no possible way of comprehending what it must feel like to win a World Cup. Couple that with accolade after achievement and dominance on the club scene too, and in short summary you’ve got the career of Raphaël Varane. Sounds so straight forward doesn’t it? A man who makes it all look easy though keeps things very real, we stepped inside his very humble yet heroic abode to understand his story, his environmental mission and his quest for unity.

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Your rise from where you started to where you are now – did you have dreams as a kid?

No, not at all. I did not have the time to dream. At 17 years old I was already in the professional world. I was focused on having fun when playing football and on my desire to progress. I wanted to push my limits and work on my weak points to improve myself.

Can you set the scene for us – when you were growing up, did you visualise playing for France, Real Madrid, Winning Champions Leagues, a World Cup…?

I started thinking about the professional field at 15 years old when I entered the training centre in Lens. At that time, I was hoping to play with the professional players at the age of 19. But at this end, I was in Madrid at 18 [smiles]. It went faster than expected!

What’s it like when you get to those moments, is it surreal? The adrenaline must be crazy…

Yes, sometimes we feel like we are in a bubble, in a different space-time. It seems like we are leaving something that is very unusual. It’s like entering your TV screen (smiles). It’s hard to describe. But yes, it’s something special.

Do you ever take a second to sit back and appreciate all you have won and done in the game?

Yes, but most of the time I am looking forward. I am more focused on the next goals more than what I have already accomplished.

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Who has helped you get to this incredible position in the game most? Are there people you feel you owe a lot of your success to?

Of course! There are plenty. I will not name them, so I do not forget anyone [laughs]. All the coaches, the fitness trainers I had, everybody that makes the club work, the volunteers in amateur football clubs. Obviously, my family as well.

How important is it for you and your mindset to appreciate those around you – is it important to stay human, stay humble in that way?

It is important for me. Humility is part of my education. To know where we are going, we must know where we come from.

Do you feel like that mindset is crucial in football if you want to go far?

Certainly. It is a driving force for me. The fact that I always want to progress comes from being humble. I can recognise that there are certain things I am not unable to do yet, and that I need to work on to progress and to improve myself. I never said to myself that I can do everything so that I can stop working. I constantly re-examine and question myself. I am continually seeking to better myself.

You’ve done so many life changing things – you must do certain things, like signing for Real Madrid and think, “nothing can top this”, then something else happens. Can you describe when you’ve felt that?

I realise how incredible it is to live such intense moments, and to have a lot of victories. I have asked myself if I will have the chance to live those moments again. This is what I said to myself for the Champions League, and I won in four times already [smiles]. I hope it will continue and hope to be amazed each time. 

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Just how hard would you say you have to work to get to where you have?

It’s difficult to quantify the amount of work. But it’s a lot of sacrifice, like leaving the family early. Often, young people only see the result, and not every hard time. We continue to strive during those moments. When I win a trophy I always think about the challenging moments. It’s part of the joy too. The more we strive to overcome difficulties, the more we can savour the victory.

It must get to a point where it’s almost hard to motivate yourself as you’ve accomplished so much. Is that fair to say? What makes you hungry to succeed time after time?

I am motivated by challenges. I challenge myself and try to push my limits. There are times more difficult than others. We play every three days. It is true that sometimes, you can feel the fatigue, and wish to rest. But we always want to aim higher and push our limits. We reveal ourselves in the face of adversity. It has been like that throughout my journey. I have been through hard times, and I had to give a boost to reach the next level

Pretty much everyone would like to call themselves a winner but genuinely, you are. Do you look at yourself that way?

Everything I do is for winning. It is a mindset, a philosophy. I am always looking for what I can improve.

When we are winning, we are labelled as winners. Therefore, everyone wants to beat you. Because of your ego, you do not want to lose your winner status [smiles]. It’s also a motivation to continue to be a winner. 

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How important is confidence in anything you do?

At top level, confidence is essential. When we are not so confident, negative things can happen. When we are confident, we are in virtuous cycle. Football is a very intuitive and instinctive game. When you have the confidence, you start doing things you thought you were not able to do.

Speaking of things you do, you’ve expressed an interest and passion for sustainability, can you tell us about that and the journey you’re on there?

I am interested in this topic. I am learning more every day. It concerns everyone. Everyone can do small things on their own scale. There are a lot of things we can do and must do. Little by little, I do more. On a daily basis, I drive an electric car. I eat local and organic food. I try to focus and better myself on those little things we can do in everyday life, like recycling or refraining from leaving plastics around. 

Do you think you and the next generation of players are going to have a real desire to use their profiles to make change in this kind of way?

I have an important role to play. We saw players like Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling defending a cause. Their actions can make a real difference and have a great impact on youngsters, and on everybody else. When you see certain personalities take a stand on an issue, it makes you think. I believe, we have a role to play. It is important that we understand that as players. Often, we are young, and we learn. But we are interested in my subjects. We make our voices heard. I think we need to take position on certain matters without changing our profession. We are footballers, but the social impact can be significant.

What sparked that interest for you?

I am interested in plenty of others subjects like racism. The environmental issue generates social crises. All human beings are concerned. I am still learning and need to gain more knowledge. We all need to look in that direction.

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Would you like to be seen as a leader in this field? Or at least someone who people can turn to for insight?

Yes, I want people to know that Raphaël Varane has concerns and questions about environmental issues. I want to know and learn more. For now, this is what I am doing. I am in a learning phase. More and more people have an interest in this problem, and we have a lot to do.

Would you say your mission on this planet has changed over time? As you’ve matured, have your interests changed?

Yes definitely, maturity make you more conscious. I have children. I think about the future, and what we will pass on to the future generations.

We have a better perspective, and we also want to take advantage of the notoriety we have.  One man cannot change the world. But we can all try to improve the future, or all least think about how we can do better together.

Euro 2021, it’s been a long time coming, is that another moment you want to own and take?

It is a well publicised event. We need to use the influence that we can have on society to expose some issues. We do not want to moralise anyone of course, but only to improve the reflection on certain matters.

How will it feel to walk out with the French National Team once more?

It is a mix of excitement, pride, joy, motivation, and determination. Supporters bring us even more emotions and thrills. When the French team win, it brings people together. All players fight together for a common goal. There is no question about social backgrounds, or skin colours. We are all together for the same objective. That is beautiful. It is a strong message for society.

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How would you describe that sense of pride?

It is a strong emotion when you understand that you are playing for something bigger than you. You do not only play for yourself, but you play for your country. This is the most beautiful part when playing football. What is even more beautiful is when you win for your country! [laughs]

Do you ever think about how much joy your success for the national team can bring a nation and beyond? It must be an incredible feeling.

Before winning you believe that you know what it could feel like [smiles]. But you truly understand the impact when you win. You then realise that you stop the entire country, and you see the amount of joy that it can bring. It breaks down all the barriers, all the borders. You see an entire country all together behind one goal and sharing the same emotions.

If you could put any message on your boots you’ll wear through the tournament, what would that be?

The first thing that comes to my mind is “Together we are stronger.” I would like to bring a message of union and solidarity. We are currently going through difficult times with the health crisis. It is also difficult at a social level. The message will be not to think only of oneself but to open more to others.

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