Who is Aymeric Laporte?
Pep Guardiola and Manchester City have been in the market for a central defender in this transfer window and after a period of being linked with West Bromwich Albion and Northern Ireland defender, Jonny Evans, they have finally decided to make the move for Athletic Bilbao's, Aymeric Laporte, by signing him for a club record fee for a defender.
Laporte, who is 23 years old, had spent his entire professional career with Athletic but he was at the centre of some controversy when he first joined the Basque giants as a teenager. It is well known that Athletic will only sign players with a connection to the Basque region, either through birth, having spent some of their formative years there or learned the game of football with a Basque club. Technically, Laporte doesn’t meet this criteria although the club did find a way around it. The majority of the Basque region is in what’s known globally as northern Spain but there is a small corner in south-west France that is also Basque, which is where French World Cup winner, Bixente Lizarazu grew up enabling him to become the first French man to play for Athletic. However, Laporte was actually born in and played for Agen which although close to the Basque part of France is just outside what is considered to be Basque territory. To get around this Laporte signed for Bayonne which is in the Basque lands and therefore after playing a year there he became eligible to play for Athletic and he signed permanently for the club in 2010.
After officially moving to Athletic, Laporte spent time with their feeder club, Basconia and their second string, Bilbao Athletic. In 2012, he made his first team debut and managed to hold onto his place and he has generally been a starter ever since. At international level, Laporte has also been at the centre of controversy as he has represented France at all youth levels, including under-19 whom he helped to the final of the 2013 UEFA under-19 Championships, making the Team of the Tournament in the process. However, he has long been frustrated at the lack of opportunities he has had in the senior team and he has still not represented France at that level. In fact, Spain had tried to get him to apply for citizenship so he could represent them and he did begin the process before later dropping it when he received a French call up although even then he didn’t get to play so his international future is technically still in the balance although it looks likely that France will be his first choice.
In terms of playing style, Laporte looks like a perfect fit for Guardiola and City. He’s big, strong and good in the air but he is also more than capable of playing the ball out from the back as he has a lot of technical ability. Another reason that he will suit City is they tend to play a high pressing game which sees the midfielders push up high which at times can leave defenders exposed. However, one of Laporte’s best attributes is his capability of dispossessing attackers when they get into one on one situations. Often in La Liga, where many of the most creative players in the world play, he has come out on top against them and that includes Lionel Messi which is no mean feat.
With the deal now being complete, it remains to be seen how long it takes for him to settle in. Some times it can take time for a player to settle in a new country and it is all the more difficult to do so when the move comes in the winter transfer window as there is no preseason tours to help get to know your new team mates. However, at 23 years old Laporte is very much a signing for the future and he will no doubt be given time to find his feet and over the coming seasons he should prove to be a very astute signing for Guardiola and his Manchester City side.