Aymeric Laporte’s long-mooted move to Manchester City is just about finalised, after Athletic Bilbao posted a farewell message from the defender to the club’s fans on Twitter and announced that his release clause had been triggered in a statement on their website.
The defender has been a Pep Guardiola target for quite a while, and given the club’s occasional struggles in the centre of defence, Laporte will be a welcome signing at the club.
Here are five things you may not have known about the young Frenchman.
Laporte’s father played both football and rugby, and Laporte himself started off in both sports – at the tender age of five. Given his injury history, it’s interesting to imagine how he would have fared in rugby, although it’s likely that unlike in his football career, an international call-up would have been much easier to come by in rugby. The defender’s mother and elder sister both had long footballing careers as well.
CITY’S LONG PURSUIT
Laporte was nearly one of Pep Guardiola’s first signings as Manchester City manager, as there was a strong suggestion that he was ready to make the switch to the Premier League in 2016. Instead, he turned down the approach and chose to stay at Athletic, and Guardiola finished that transfer window with John Stones as the only new central defender on the books. Better late than never, as the Spaniard can finally pair Stones and Laporte together as he’d initially envisioned.
WILTORD WAS HIS IDOL
You’d think for a French defender, Laporte’s idol would be someone like Bixente Lizarazu, Lilian Thuram, or Eric Abidal. But Laporte started off as a striker – and even then, his choice of favourite player wasn’t exactly the most conventional. Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, Robert Pires – nope. Instead, it was former Arsenal star Sylvain Wiltord who caught Laporte’s eye when he was starring for Bordeaux. Wiltord’s Bordeaux team-mate Pauleta, the Portuguese striker, was another of Laporte’s heroes growing up.
THE BASQUE DEBATE
Athletic Bilbao famously select players only if they’re from the Basque region, which meant that the recruitment of Laporte prompted debate. His links to the Basque region are technically somewhat tenuous, but he qualified thanks to his great-grandparents. He became only the second Frenchman to play for the club, after Lizarazu.
WHERE’S THE INTERNATIONAL CALL-UP?
Despite widely being regarded as one of the best young defenders in Europe, Laporte has yet to be called up to the senior national squad for France, although he’s played for every age group below that for Les Blues. Given his reputation in La Liga, it’s no surprise that Spain tried sounding out the defender about whether he’d be willing to switch allegiances, but Laporte has remained firm with his resolve to play for France. Indeed, that’s one of the driving factors behind his move to City – the youngster believes the France set-up isn’t paying too much attention to him because he’s at Athletic and not a more high-profile club.
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