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Real Madrid's Raphaël Varane on what keeps him motivated

"The harder the challenge, the more I enjoy it," says the supremely cool 27-year-old defender.

Raphaël Varane has won the UEFA Champions League four times at Madrid
Raphaël Varane has won the UEFA Champions League four times at Madrid Real Madrid via Getty Images

A FIFA World Cup winner with France and four-time UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid, Raphaël Varane has lost nothing of his lust for footballing success.

The unflappable 27-year-old centre-back has built up a huge reputation in a decade at the Santiago Bernabéu, but as he prepares for a quarter-final meeting with Liverpool, he continues to be inspired by memories of taking on his older brother during his childhood in Lille.

Liverpool v Real Madrid down the years
Liverpool v Real Madrid down the years

"For me, pressure is a friend. It's a driving force. I think that pressure makes you better. It gives you adrenaline, and it helps you to think faster, to be more focused and to experience the game more intensely. And I'd say that scary pressure should motivate you, as you run faster when you're scared!

"I don't think my playing style immediately makes you think that I'm a warrior. However, I do reckon that I have a warrior mentality. I quite like challenges. The harder the challenge, the more I enjoy it. The less you believe in me, the more motivated I am. That's my way of being and thinking, and that's what's helped me get to the highest level and stay there for several years.

2018 final highlights: Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool
2018 final highlights: Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool

"I'd say it's natural and innate, and then it just develops through whatever you experience. In my case, it was the daily challenge of trying to beat my older brother in order to reach his level and improve. I would cry if I didn't meet my objectives. So, that pressure to win and to outdo myself has been in me ever since I was a kid, and it'll be with me for my entire life.

"Is all that pressure worthwhile once you get to lift a big trophy like the Champions League? Yes! It is worth it. You put in a lot of effort. When you play at the highest level, you're constantly questioning yourself, stretching your limits and trying to be more focused and better. It's hard to stay at the highest level because it requires a lot of effort.

Emilio Butragueño on Madrid's Liverpool date
Emilio Butragueño on Madrid's Liverpool date

"As I said, there are highs and lows, but when you're on a high – and it's happened to me every time – you have to remember your hard times, whether it was during your childhood, when you were trying to make it to the top, or when you were already at the top.

"You have to think: 'We've suffered, we've been through hard times, we've had to fight to get here, and now we've made it.' Every time, I feel such a mix of emotions. The higher the pressure, the more emotional it is. Every time, it's an explosion of joy."