The centre-back duo’s prospects are in doubt, with the Blancos captain’s deal expiring in June and the France star delaying negotiations.

Real Madrid’s backbone for years has been Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, who have won four Champions League titles together at the core of the Blancos’ defence.

This summer, though, both teams have a chance to stroll into the sunset and away from Santiago Bernabeu.

Since taking over in 2016, Zinedine Zidane has relied on the pair, with only injury holding them out of the starting lineup.

Ramos’ leadership and violence was balanced out by Varane’s ability to heal quickly and recover from injuries.

Pepe, who is still turning in outstanding results for Porto at the age of 38, left the team in 2017, while Eder Militao, who cost €50 million (£43 million/$57 million), has rarely played, showing the partnership’s continuing efficiency.

Ramos’ deal ends this year, and he has yet to sign a new one, although Varane’s expires in June 2022.

Madrid’s skipper is the more time-urgent situation and, having previously come close to leaving the Spanish capital, his time may have finally come to depart.

Ramos turns 35 at the end of March and could land a final big payday elsewhere; it is a purely financial issue stopping him from extending his deal with Madrid.

The club has made two offers of a two-year extension worth nearly 75% of his present salary, with the remaining quarter excluded due to financial challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

On the other hand, Ramos and his representatives want the full wage accrued for a longer period of time.

In 2019, he said, “I want to retire at Real Madrid, I’d play here for free,” but it now seems to be mere rhetoric.

It came after a spat between Ramos and Madrid president Florentino Perez, who said the defender attempted to leave for free to a Chinese Super League club.

Last week, Ramos said, “There is a lot of confusion.” “I’d like to say more, but there’s nothing new to say.” I’m just concerned about returning from injury and finishing the season as strongly as possible. The renewal brings little different to the table.”

It’s easy to blame Ramos for his arrogance, but considering his contribution to the club in recent years, the defender is entitled to his own assessment of his services.

He was vital as they ground their way to the Spanish title last season, scoring important goals in the run-in, while Zidane parachuted him straight back into the side after injury against Elche at the weekend.

The coach would dearly love to keep his captain at the club.

“I WANT TO BE HONEST AND I HAVE TO SAY I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN WITH HIM,” EXPLAINED ZIDANE.

“WE WANT HIM TO STAY HERE. HE’S ALWAYS GOING TO BE AN IMPORTANT PLAYER AND I WANT HIM TO REMAIN HERE.”

Losing Ramos and Varane would help Madrid loosen their belt a notch or two, economically speaking, particularly if they are thrifty in replacing them.

David Alaba of Bayern Munich could join on a free transfer, as the Austrian centre-back is keen to return to Spain when his deal ends in June.

Pep Guardiola was happy playing Alaba in a variety of positions, and he has done well for Bayern Munich in the centre this season.

“HE’S FANTASTIC FOR ME AS A LEFT-BACK, BUT I THINK HE’S ONE OF THE BEST CENTRE-BACKS IN THE WORLD,”

 Teammate Joshua Kimmich said.

Real Madrid has long been the go-to team for swashbuckling attacking ability, but since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, they have relied heavily on their defence and failed in front of goal.

If Ramos and Varane leave, it might be time to switch gears and get the excitement back to Madrid.

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