PARIS: France centre-back Raphael Varane, a World Cup winner in 2018 and runner-up last year, announced Thursday his retirement from international duty at the age of 29.
“I’ve been thinking about it for several months and I decided it was the right time for me to retire from international football,“ Varane wrote on Instagram.
The Manchester United defender made his France debut in 2013 and won 93 caps for Les Bleus. He had been in the running to take over as captain following the retirement of Hugo Lloris last month.
“To represent our magnificent country for a decade has been one of the greatest honours of my life. Each time I wore this special blue shirt I felt immense pride,“ said Varane.
Varane's decision to call time on his France career leaves Kylian Mbappe as the frontrunner for the captaincy, with Didier Deschamps' side set to begin Euro 2024 qualifying at the end of March with a double-header against the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.
The former Real Madrid star played every minute of his country's triumphant 2018 World Cup campaign as France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the final.
He was one of five French players who also started the 2022 final defeat by Argentina on penalties, recovering from a leg injury that ruled him out of the start of the tournament.
“I’ll definitely miss these moments with you, but the time has come for the new generation to take over,“ he said, thanking Deschamps and his coaching staff as well as the supporters.
“We have a group of talented young players who are ready to step up and who deserve their chance.”
Deschamps paid tribute to Varane and praised him for the leadership qualities he had brought to the team throughout his time with France.
“I cannot turn this page without some emotion, given the bonds we have formed,“ said Deschamps, who gave Varane his international debut in a 2014 World Cup qualifier against Georgia.
“I respect his decision even if it may seem a bit unfortunate given everything he was able to do with the national team through to the World Cup, during which he behaved like the leader we know he is from start to finish.” - AFP