French defender Raphael Varane has spoken of his pride at earning the chance to represent Real Madrid and their enigmatic coach Jose Mourinho.
Varane, who signed for a reported 10 million euros from Ligue 1 side Lens in June 2011, made only a handful of appearances last season but has worked hard to establish himself with the Primera Division giants and has been rewarded with greater involvement this term.
The 19-year-old centre-back has already started seven matches, including five of the last six, and will expect to be involved at Levante on Sunday as Real again look to claw back some of the deficit on Primera Division rivals Barcelona, who boast an eight-point advantage after 10 games.
Reflecting on his new-found status at the Bernabeu, Varane told the club's official website: ``(Last season) we won the league, which was great.
``It was a good year both personally and as part of a team. But as an individual, I have now settled in well and made my mark on the dressing room.
``I have seen the good side of everything and I have also seen how big and important this club is.
``Mourinho gives me a lot. He trusts in me, he lets me express myself and he shows me the demands of elite sport and everything that implies. I learn a lot from him.
``I will never forget the start of my career with Lens in France or the trophies I have won with Real Madrid. Coming to the capital of Spain was incredible.''
As for the challenge of a Levante side who have performed well this year to sit sixth, just three points behind their illustrious opponents, Varane added: ``It will be a difficult match. We know that Levante are a good team and we will have to be alert to measure up in every aspect of the match. It will be a very physical match.''
Real go into the match on the back of a 2-2 Champions League draw with Borussia Dortmund and are unbeaten in six La Liga outings.
Hosts Levante head into the match having played out a goalless Europa League draw at FC Twente on Thursday.
That result left the Valencia-based club in a strong position to qualify for the next phase of the competition but manager Juan Ignacio Martinez wasted little time in turning his attention to the visit of Real.
``I'm happy because everyone feels this was important and we have showed that we can play,'' he said about the match.
``Now, we need to focus on Real Madrid. We need to prepare, but playing against Real Madrid is a great motivator.``