Forget Jean-Clair Todibo - Man Utd's perfect £60m Varane replacement is obvious

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The Red Devils could be on the hunt for a new centre-back in the coming months amid reports for Raphael Varane's potential exit.

If you were to typecast the sort of player who might be at the top of Saudi Arabian shopping lists come the end of the season, Raphael Varane would very much be that guy. By the time the 2023/24 campaign reaches its conclusion, the Manchester United defender will be 31 years of age, just one year out from the expiration of his contract at Old Trafford, and perhaps most significant of all, with four Champions Leagues and a World Cup to his name, still in possession of a glittering reputation. Nothing says 'Pro League talisman' like former glories.

But, of course, if Varane were to depart United in the coming months, it would leave a considerable hole in an already threadbare defence. For much of the early knockings of the season, injuries have dictated the selection of a backline that that has felt decidedly makeshift at times. Without the absent Varane and the crocked Lisandro Martinez, Erik ten Hag has been forced into scraping the proverbial barrel of his reserves, calling on a somewhat galvanised Harry Maguire and, in Jonny Evans, a veteran who feels as if he is helping out as something of a reluctant favour.

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As such, reinforcements at the heart of defence were always likely to be a priority for United in the relatively near future, but the possibility of Varane's exit only heightens the need for new signings. According to Caught Offside, the man identified as a potential replacement for the Frenchman is his compatriot, OGC Nice talent Jean-Clair Todibo, and it is easy to see why the Red Devils are enamoured; at 23, he is a player with his whole career ahead of him, and having just won his first senior international cap, it is evident that his trajectory is a positive one.

But there is another option, and it is one that United should seriously consider. While Todibo may well be the future of French football, Marc Guehi, in his understated way, continues to stake his claim as England's promising equivalent. The Crystal Palace centre-back is an established, reliable Premier League presence, who seemingly improves with each passing season. Increasingly, his inclusion in Gareth Southgate's England set-up feels like an inevitability, and as the epoch of Maguire and Stones slowly begins to wane, it seems that the former Chelsea academy graduate is a leading contender to assume a starting mantle.

Granted, at the present moment in time, if you were to compare his statistical output with Todibo's, the Nice star makes for the more impressive prospect. So far this term, he has averaged more tackles, more interceptions, and a higher pass completion rate over in Ligue 1 than Guehi has in South London.

But there are some caveats to ponder. For one thing, the differences between the two are often marginal, and not so devastating an indictment of the Palace defender to suggest that he is a vastly inferior option. For another, Todibo is, by most sane estimations, playing in a better side - currently good enough to relegate Paris Saint-Germain to an unthinkable second in the table - which is always going to make life markedly easier for a centre-back.

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Perhaps the biggest boon in Guehi's favour, however, is that he knows the Premier League. It should go without saying that this is by no means a prerequisite for a successful signing, but at United, a club where dreams and credibility often go to die, every little helps. Far too often, the Red Devils have spent big on a promising defender from the continent, only to be left cradling a dud for the next half a decade. They only just got rid of Eric Bailly, for chrissakes.

By contrast, Guehi has proven that he can hack it in the English top flight, and while the aforementioned Maguire would attest to the fact that Premier League experience alone does not make for plain sailing at Old Trafford, it certainly can't hurt the transition.

They also say that you can judge a man by the company he keeps, and to that end, Guehi dazzles as well. Alongside United, who have already been touted as potential suitors, the 23-year-old is reportedly attracting attention from the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal, and Liverpool. At the risk of being a touch reductionist, it is difficult to imagine four of the best scouting departments in the country all being wrong about the same player simultaneously. Palace evidently believe he is the real deal too; the Eagles are said to be demanding as much as £60 million for their asset, and it is not unimaginable that that price tag could inflate if a bidding war ensues.

None of this is to say that Todibo would be a bad signing by any means, but if United are in need of a Varane replacement in the near future, Guehi feels like the safer bet.

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