What's so special about Manchester City target Aymeric Laporte?
There are two kinds of managers when it comes to transfers. You have impulse buyers who come to the market without a clear plan. Then there's the savvy bunch: focused, determined and idealistic. Pep Guardiola certainly falls under the latter.
As far back as August, Guardiola had already spotted the weakness in his Manchester City team. It didn't take a genius. Spoiled for choice in attack, he was practically handicapped in front of his own goal. Vincent Kompany was not to be relied upon. Neither was John Stones before he was injured. Micolas Otamendi has been his one reliable centre-half. Pep understood a reputable defender was more essential than stockpiling firepower through Alexis Sanchez. Atletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte was his man.
Laporte's market value has swelled almost every season. In 2013, aged just 18, his release clause was around £23 million. That figure doubled two years later. It increased a further 25% the next. The current £58 million price tag could rank him amongthe most expensive defenders in history. Should the deal eventually go through, Laporte will become City's record buy, eclipsing the £55 million paid for Kevin De Bruyne.
Spending profusely on rearguards isn't entirely strange to Guardiola. Last summer he squandered over £120 million on three: Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo. Tuck in some more millions for Ederson and you're approaching £150 million. Regardless, Laporte's pedigree and qualities make him a shrewd bargain.
Laporte will arrive at the Etihad Campus with swagger, being La Liga's best central defender not playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona. Five years in the Basque country has made him formidable. Very few players his age can amass a double century in first-team caps.
Playing for Marcelo Bielsa was key to his development. The Mad Scientist is not unlike Guardiola in philosophy and approach. As a result, the modern traits in Laporte’s game clearly stand out. His ability on the ball take prominence. He swiftly transitions from defence to attack with purpose and precision. He also reads the game exceptionally well. All are traits Pep desires in a defender. Ask Carles Puyol.
Laporte covers ground quickly and is strong in tackles. Aerially he’s quite a competitor. Above all, though, he's proven himself versatile in different systems, cropping up in a back three as well as a four. He has also featured at left-back. His assets have made him ideal to play a modernised sweeper role.
Equally as impressive are the player's numbers. He averages more tackles, clearances and blocks than any among City's centre-backs. The only complaint would be his prowess in attack has yet to result in a finishing move. Laporte’s style would mesh very well with Otamendi, who has scored, provided the pair quickly learn to cover for one another's adventurous impulses.
The Frenchman is not perfect, not by a long shot. He doesn’t always play to his full potential and has occasional moments of absolute madness on the ball that you can’t help but lament. His zeal to recover from mistakes has resulted in bookings.
Even so, Laporte is the player City need at this time. Playing under Guardiola should smooth out the rough edges.