Real Madrid's Raphael Varane is the best defender in world football, according to Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho, who re-joined Chelsea from Real in the close-season, installed Varane as a regular in the starting XI at the Bernabeu last term, with the France centre-back earning praise for his composed defensive performances.
The 20-year-old has been troubled by persistent knee problems in recent times but played 90 minutes for his country in a 2-0 win over the Netherlands on Wednesday.
Reports have suggested that Chelsea could move to reunite Varane with Mourinho, who was glowing in his praise of the former Lens man.
Varane is likely to be selected for France's squad for the FIFA World Cup in June, and Mourinho believes he will go to Brazil as the best player at his position.
"I would say (Eden) Hazard for sure, Neymar, Rafa Varane," Mourinho said when asked who were the young players to watch at the World Cup in an interview after being unveiled as Yahoo's global ambassador for football 2014.
"I think he (Varane) is the best central defender in the world, a young one I think he's the best. Already, yes. I think he's the best."
One young French defender already likely to play for Chelsea next term is Kurt Zouma, who signed a £12million deal in January, but was loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the remainder of the campaign.
Mourinho also hinted that he could link up with Italy international Mario Balotelli for a second time.
The Portuguese worked with Balotelli at Inter, and did not rule out working with the striker, who has been linked with an exit from Milan at the end of the season, once again.
"In football you never know the future," Mourinho added.
"Balotelli is with a big club at the moment but you never know the future.
"They want to keep the best players and want to keep the best Italian players. But Mario has already been in English football before.
"I'm not going to be manager of Milan or the Italy national team, but he's a good kid and somebody I'd like to work with again."
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