Raphael Varane once hung up on Zinedine Zidane and is considering doing the same again.
It happened back in 2011 when the legendary midfielder, retired from football but operating on behalf of his former club Real Madrid, called Varane to convince him to move to the Spanish capital from Lens.
“I wasn't really sure if it was him or not,” the defender later explained. “I was really stressed out so I said to him: ‘Ok, but I'm a bit busy right now. Can you call me another time?’
"And I put the phone down.”
Varane did, of course, join Madrid in the end, admitting that Zidane had played a ‘fundamental’ role in his decision to move to the Santiago Bernabeu, where he has since developed into one of the world’s best centre-backs.
At just 25, he has virtually won it all.
But, just as Zidane returns for a second stint at Madrid, preparing to lead them into a new era, Varane is thinking about a departure.
The coach knew he would have a big job on his hands revamping a team that has struggled without both him and Cristiano Ronaldo, but having to convince Varane to stay is a task Zidane didn’t see coming.
Gareth Bale, Isco, Marcelo and Toni Kroos could leave at the end of the summer without too many eyebrows being raised, but Varane’s departure would be a brutal blow.
French newspaper L’Equipe broke the news that Varane is mulling over his future at the club, in search of a new challenge.
After his World Cup success, Varane is right to believe he should be the dominant player in any defence, but at Madrid that will not be the case while Sergio Ramos remains.
Real Madrid’s captain rules the roost and, despite his undoubted quality, Varane will remain Ramos’s plus one. Moving to another top side would instantly give him the spotlight he has begun to crave – not to mention the salary.
Varane last renewed his deal in 2017 and his current contract expires in 2022. He wants – and deserves – the wage of a world champion.
The fact he has three years to go means that any side looking to sign Varane would have to pay through the teeth to sign him. After Bayern Munich signed his compatriot Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid on Wednesday for €80 million, setting the market price, Varane would undoubtedly become the world’s first nine-figure defender if he were to leave this summer.
There is a feeling that Varane wants to be valued higher by Madrid and is not happy with the club’s capitulation this season in the three major competitions – because of their poor planning.
Madrid-based newspaper AS also claimed that Varane was unhappy Real didn’t give him an homage at the start of the season after France’s triumph, in contrast to Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, who paid tribute to their Gallic stars.
However, it’s a two-way street and Madrid aren’t impressed by Varane’s refusal to dismiss links to other clubs.
“I don’t feel like talking about my future,” Varane said in an interview with Le Parisien, passing on a perfectly good opportunity to set things straight.
Madrid have already splashed €50m on Porto's versatile centre-back Eder Militao, who can also play at full-back, but the Blancos still hope that Zidane will be able to win Varane round.
It was the Frenchman who installed him in the team in the 2016-17 season in place of Pepe, and both coach and player see eye to eye on a lot of things.
Varane likes the way Zidane deals with problems; that steady hand. Varane adopts a similar approach to the game – and that's no coincidence.
"I try to transmit calmness and motivation to my team-mates. It would be against my nature if I shouted or banged the walls,” Varane explained after Zidane’s return.
“Some make a lot of noise for no reason and don’t serve as an example [to others]. When I speak, they listen to me. I do this very well and this is something I learned from Zizou.
“I was able to observe his way of going about things. He inspires deep respect in a dressing room like Real's without needing to shout.”
Given his own respect for Zidane, the fact there is no bigger club in the world to move to, and Madrid’s plans to heavily reinforce the squad, it is hard to see Varane actually walking away.
Especially not at the start of the season before Euro 2020, where Varane will look to win the one major honour which has thus far eluded him.
The Frenchman is a firm favourite to become captain at Madrid when Ramos eventually retires and then, he will eventually get the recognition he seeks.
Back home, the defender is sometimes viewed as a nice guy, perhaps even too nice at times. But, after changing his agent last year, he is clearly embracing his meaner side.
That involves playing hardball with Madrid over his future and, even if the most likely scenario is that he stays on an improved deal, it is easy to see why this silent leader would be drawn to the idea of leaving the Bernabeu with his head held high, in search of fame, fortune and a new adventure elsewhere.