Raphael Varane vs Ben White: Which centre-back is better?

Cameron Smith
Raphael Varane and Ben White

With Arsenal signing Ben White from Brighton and Manchester United securing Raphael Varane from Real Madrid, centre-backs have been in fashion during the summer transfer window.

White has joined the Gunners in a deal worth £50 million, while it is reported that Man Utd will only pay around £41m (including add-ons) for Varane - a player who boasts multiple Champions Leagues and a World Cup winner's medal.

The gulf in experience between the two players is an immense one, and so the discrepancy in price is a surprising one.

What is perhaps interesting is that Real Madrid have accepted a far smaller sum than Brighton.

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Although the wages of the pair will be vastly different - Man Utd will pay significantly more for Varane - it still seems as though Arsenal are getting a worse deal than the Red Devils in regards to the value for money of their new defender.

However, Harry Maguire cost Man Utd £80m (€94m) from Leicester, and he's proved the doubters wrong ever since; White will have to do the same thing.

Both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mikel Arteta will hope this intent in the transfer market will see them rise up the table, but of their two new centre-halves, who is better?

Varane vs White: Who is better?

It seems a fairly obvious question given one has spent almost every year of their adult life at Real Madrid, having joined from Lens aged 18, whilst the other can site Newport County, Peterborough, Leeds, and Brighton as his four professional clubs.

In fact, whilst Varane was winning the 2017/18 Champions League, White had spent that season on his first loan move away, at the aforementioned League Two Newport.

Varane vs White: Trophy cabinet

VaraneWhite
Club trophies181 (Championship)
International trophies1 (World Cup)0

However, it's unfair to judge the pair solely on their history, and at 23, five years younger than Varane, White does have time on his side.

Centre-backs are famously the hardest position to judge off statistics, with positional awareness, leadership, and communication three of the most important aspects of their game, all of which don't show up in the stats.

However, taking a slight delve into the statistics from last season, to find some nuggets of information, it's clear that White is the more aggressive defender, whilst Varane holds his position far more frequently.

This may well come as a result of White's versatility that has seen him play at right-back and in central midfield, and these ventures elsewhere on the pitch will have skewed his numbers.

Either way, White commits almost double the amount of fouls that Varane does, which saw him collect four yellow cards and one red in the Premier League last term, attempts over 1.0 tackles and interceptions per 90 more, and competes in 1.7 more duels per 90 than the Frenchman.

On the other hand, Varane is more comfortable in possession. The Man Utd-bound star had a pass completion rate of 90% in the league last year, whilst White was at 83%. Furthermore, Varane lost possession just 6.9 times per 90, ninth best of centre-backs in La Liga last year, and White was at 10.2 per 90.

Varane vs White: League stats 2020/21

VaraneWhite
Appearances3136
Cards2Y 0R4Y 1R
Tackles + interceptions p902.03.1
Aerial duels won p902.41.3
Pass accuracy90%83%
Possession lost p906.910.2

While their styles of defending differ slightly, with Varane better in the air, and White more aggressive, they are both good players, but they arguably weren't at their best during the 2020/21 season.

For those who followed Brighton closely, both Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster had superior campaigns than White, while Joel Veltman played better at right-back, when the pair were required to fill in for the injured Tariq Lamptey. But, at 23, White does have a promising future, and praise from the England squad shows how talented he is.

Varane, on the other hand, also wasn't at his best last year, particularly against Chelsea in the Champions League, and at the European Championship, he failed to impress as did France as a whole. However, alongside Maguire, the pair could form one of the best backlines in Europe, and help push United closer to a first league title since 2013.

To conclude, Varane is the better player, and has far more experience, meaning Man Utd have negotiated a bargain fee, but in a few years time, Arsenal may well be praised for their initiative in signing a promising young centre-half in White.

In Arsenal's first game of the Premier League season against Brentford, White had a torrid time, while just a few hours later, Varane was given a rock star's reception at Old Trafford.

It will be interesting to see if this dynamic continues this campaign...