Shoring up the defence was always going to be one of Pep Guardiola’s first objectives as new Manchester City manager, and in typical Man City fashion they are looking to spend big to make it happen.
Despite spending over £70million on central defenders Nicolás Otamendi and Eliaquim Managala in recent years, neither has been overly impressive, and the fact that the defence has been ripped apart with alarming regularity by the likes of Leicester, Tottenham, Stoke, Liverpool (twice) and, in the weekend just gone, Southampton has meant that improving the backline has become a major priority for the incoming manager.
With that in mind, reports from the Basque region (picked up by the Guardian) are today claiming that Man City have agreed to pay the €50m (£39m) release clause to sign Athletic Bilbao centre back Aymeric Laporte.
The 21 year old had been a top target for Guardiola, and at his request the club has agreed to bypass negotiations and just activate the clause to land the player.
Manchester City sporting director Txiki Begiristain was spotted in Bilbao last month to watch Laporte’s side Athletic take on Sevilla – a game that the player missed through injury – but now it appears that the club are ready to firm up their interest.
Athletic have privately accepted that Laporte’s most recent appearance – their 2-1 win at home to Espanyol on March 20th – was the player’s last for the club.
Laporte has represented France at youth level, and while he is yet to be capped at senior level, he had been tipped to replace the injured Kurt Zouma in Didier Deschamps in the squad for the upcoming European Championships before he broke his leg in an under-21 match in March.
He has in the past stated that omission from said squad would lead to him considering switching allegiance to Spain, though he is likely to revise that sentiment in the wake of the injury..
Laporte has a growing reputation as one of the best young defenders in Europe – despite the expensive outlay, Guardiola will be confident that the promising defender can go some way to fixing Manchester City’s problems at the back.