Laporte set to show France what they are missing in Lyon

Signed for a then club record £57 million ($73m) in January, there was skepticism as to whether City needed to splash out once more for a centre-back after investing more than £80 million in John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi and the return to fitness of captain Vincent Kompany.

football Updated: Nov 26, 2018 09:07 IST
AFP
AFP
London
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File image of Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (right).(REUTERS)

Aymeric Laporte may still be trying to win the confidence of France coach Didier Deschamps, but as Manchester City travel to Laporte’s homeland to face Lyon on Tuesday, Pep Guardiola’s trust in the centre-back is indisputable.

Signed for a then club record £57 million ($73m) in January, there was skepticism as to whether City needed to splash out once more for a centre-back after investing more than £80 million in John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi and the return to fitness of captain Vincent Kompany.

On his arrival from Athletic Bilbao, Laporte took time to settle in his new surroundings with all three of his Champions League outings last season ending in defeat.

However, having had a full summer under Guardiola’s orders in pre-season as he missed out on Deschamps’ World Cup-winning squad, Laporte has become the stalwart of a City defence that has conceded just eight goals in 19 games.

In an incredibly deep squad with choices aplenty for Guardiola, the 24-year-old is the only outfield player to have played every single minute of Champions League and Premier League action.

“I can move the squad but when one player plays good, good and good, it gives me confidence so I give you another opportunity. It is not complicated,” said Guardiola to explain why Laporte has not been rotated.

Another is the fact Laporte has continued to be overlooked by France despite his solid start to the season with the likes of Crystal Palace’s Mamadou Sakho and veteran Adil Rami retaining Deschamps’ faith instead.

“Sooner or later Laporte will be selected for France because it is difficult to find a better left central defender than him in the world,” insisted Guardiola.

“But of course it is good for the team for some of our players that are not selected for their countries to get rest.”

Three international breaks in the past three months have given Laporte the rest and recovery time he needs while many of his team-mates have been putting tired bodies on the line after the World Cup in the Nations League.

“Laporte didn’t have the World Cup, was fresh and arrived in top condition and especially he is a left-footed player,” added Guardiola, highlighting another key attribute the Frenchman has over the likes of Stones, Otamendi and Kompany.

“He helped us to make our build-up and when the ball comes from the right, he immediately controls to the left and plays it to Leroy (Sane) quicker than we would play with a right-footer in that position.”

Laporte’s ability to build from the back was why he caught Guardiola’s eye as a teenager at Athletic when playing against his coach’s all-conquering Barcelona side.

Only Chelsea’s Jorginho, another one-time City target, has completed more passes in the Premier League this season and Laporte also has the third most touches in the league.

Another routine 4-0 for the English champions at West Ham on Saturday began with Laporte winning possession inside his own half and not panicking when pressed to find Fernandinho in the build-up to the visitors’ opener at the London Stadium.

City are out to avenge the only blip in a near-perfect season so far when they last faced Lyon to open their Champions League campaign in September and lost 2-1.

A run of 12 wins and a draw at Liverpool in 13 games since has put them back on top in England and within a point of sealing a place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

With Laporte an ever-present, France’s loss has been City’s gain.

First Published: Nov 26, 2018 09:05 IST