Man City signs defender Laporte for club-record $80 million

ABS-CBN Sports on Jan 31, 2018 08:03 AM
Man City signs defender Laporte for club-record $80 million
FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, Athletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte in action during Copa del Rey, 16 round, against FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. 23-year-old Athletic Bilbao says defender Frenchman Aymeric Laporte is reported Monday Jan. 29, 2018, to have paid his buyout clause, looks set to leave the club, opening the way for a transfer to Manchester City. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, FILE)

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City signed France under-21 international Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao for a club-record fee of 65 million euros ($80 million) on Tuesday, taking its spending on center backs since 2014 to about $250 million.

The 23-year-old Laporte came close to joining City in 2016 — when Pep Guardiola took charge of the current Premier League leaders — but backed out of the move after feeling the Frenchman wasn't quite ready.

Eighteen months later, City clinched the signing of the left-footed, ball-playing defender after meeting his buy-out clause, strengthening the team's options in what has been a problem position for Guardiola and previous managers.

"He's strong in the air, good quality with the pass. He is experienced, fast and he has the skills we need," Guardiola said. "He is the perfect age, 23 years old, so hopefully he will have a long career here at Manchester City."

Laporte is the second most expensive defender in soccer history, with only Virgil van Dijk — who joined Liverpool from Southampton for 75 million pounds ($100 million) at the start of January — costing more.

Since City won its most recent Premier League title in 2014, Eliaquim Mangala has arrived from FC Porto for a reported 42 million pounds and Nicolas Otamendi joined from Valencia for 32 million pounds in 2015. Another center back, John Stones, cost an initial 47.5 million pounds in 2016.

Vincent Kompany, the club's other center back, has been at City since 2008 and is the captain. But the Belgium international might be surplus to requirements from next season, especially considering his injury record.

City also spent about 120 million pounds (then $155 million) on three fullbacks — Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo — in the last transfer window.

"Last summer we had a problem, with six or seven players out of contract and over 30 years old, so we needed to make a change," Guardiola said. "We decided to sign four or five different players and at this stage, Manchester City, when you want to compete at the highest level, you need to spend.

"One day, maybe this club will spend 130-200 million pounds on one player. So far, we haven't had to do that."

Laporte made his debut in 2012 for Bilbao under Marcelo Bielsa — a coach revered by Guardiola — and quickly became one of the Spanish league's most promising players. He said he likes to bring the ball out from the back, giving him the pedigree that suits Guardiola's vision and making him a likely rival for Stones to play alongside Otamendi.

"Defenders do this more than ever before," Laporte said in an interview with FourFourTwo magazine. "I spend as much time in training and matches working on starting attacks as I do stopping them.

"I'm usually quite calm in possession, so this helps initiate quicker, more fluid attacks from the back. I also like playing long, cross-field passes to change the position of an attack and give us another option. Variety is important."

Barcelona has previously been linked with Laporte, who has similar qualities to Gerard Pique.

The size of the fee reflects the shortage of top-quality, left-footed center backs around at the moment — and comes two weeks after City turned down the chance to sign Alexis Sanchez partly because of the Chile forward's financial demands.

Laporte has signed a contract until 2023 and becomes City's most expensive player, with the fee exceeding the reported 55 million pounds spent on Kevin De Bruyne in August 2015.

City has four of the five costliest defenders in Premier League history — Laporte, Stones, Walker, and Mendy.

Laporte, who hasn't played for France's senior team, will be available for the knockout stage of the Champions League.

 

Hola, mediante estas líneas, quisiera despedirme del Athletic y de toda su afición. Me habría gustado hacerlo mediante una rueda de prensa, algo que contaba con el visto bueno y la colaboración del Athletic, pero finalmente no podrá ser par cumplir las normas del otro club. Lo más seguro es que publicaré alguna cosa en las redes para transmitiros mis sentimientos. Por lo tanto, intentaré aquí extenderme un poco más en las ideas que le hice llegar al club: Desde que llegué a Bilbao siendo un chaval en la temporada 2009-2010 han sido muchas las experiencias que me han tocado vivir, algunas en lo deportivo, pero me gusta recordar que lo que soy ahora como persona es, en gran parte, resultado de cómo me han acogido, cómo me han tratado y cómo me han formado en los aspectos fundamentales de mi vida. La solidaridad, el respeto al compañero, el trabajo colectivo, la responsabilidad en la derrota y en la victoria, los anhelos y las ilusiones me han marcado para bien. Los retos, en lo deportivo, han ido pasando por delante de mis piernas: mi debut hace poco más de 7 años en juveniles, mi primer gol en esa categoría -frente al Txantrea-, subir peldaños en el Basconia, el Bilbao Athletic, mi primer amistoso, debutar en el campo y ante los micrófonos en competición europea, mi primer gol -ante el Getafe-, incluso mi primera cartulina roja. Todo me ha valido para aprender. Cuando hablo de un club único, hablo del Athletic, porque con una filosofía ni mejor, ni peor, simplemente diferente, me he sentido protagonista de un relato de Astérix y Obélix, una vivencia que me ha permitido, entre otras cosas, jugar Europa League, Champions y ganar un título ante uno de los grandes europeos y, sobre todo, rodearme de excelentes compañeros, técnicos y de un montón de excelentes profesionales fuera del campo. Solo sé que jamás olvidaré, insisto, dónde me he hecho mejor jugador y persona, en el orden que prefiráis. Por eso me gustaría deciros que no es un adiós, sino un hasta pronto y que llevaré al Athletic en mi corazón para siempre. Eskerrik asko, bihotzez. Aymeric Laporte

A post shared by Aymeric Laporte 4 (@a.laporte) on

"All I know," he said in an Instagram message to Athletic's fans on Monday, "is that I will never forget the place where I've become a better player and a better person. That's why this is not a 'goodbye,' only a 'see you soon.'"

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