Being publically courted and tracked by some of the world’s biggest clubs usually suggests that a player has something special and Aymeric Laporte is no different.
Sir Alex Ferguson will tell you that the most successful Manchester United sides he constructed contained a balanced centre back partnership and Laporte would bring not only balance but talent to any top shelf side in the world and we will look to examine here what it is about the young man that teams covet so much.
Born in Agen, France Laporte is only the second French player to step out onto the field for Atletic Bilbao, no mean feat in itself but he has also gone on to play over 100 games for the side since graduating to the first team in 2012.
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Plucked from amateur football in his native France, Aymeric’s skills were honed within Bilbao’s youth teams before a stint at feeder club Basconia prepared the young man for what was to come in the first IX.
Manchester United’s pressing need for a proper centre back that can play on the left-hand side of defence lands nice and neatly at Laporte’s door, but as the season has passed admiring glances have been drawn from Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
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Chris Smalling’s performances for Manchester United have been much improved, which has ensured his place as the mainstay of that defence, but last week's debacle against FC Midtjylland, when placed on the left-hand side, should lead to efforts to secure Laporte’s signature being doubled.
Why you need to know him
A centre back born and bred, Aymeric brings to the table all the modern attributes required in today’s game.
Virtually all of Aymeric’s career has been at centre back but has all shown enough quality to move across to the left-back slot when required but under current manager Ernesto Valverde, he has been redeployed as a centre back.
His technical ability and passing range could lead to being used in a holding midfield role in the future, although the defence would be much poorer for the loss.
Laporte has represented France at every youth level from U17 and full honours can only be round the corner. This says something for the stable of players that the current national side has if this young man is yet to receive his debut for the national first team, whether that be France or Spain.
The 21-year-old incorporates a lot of facets that a certain Rio Ferdinand possessed, a good turn of pace, athletic physique (standing over 6ft) and quality on the ball.
Bilbao, over the past few seasons, have rotated their centre back pairings a lot, but Laporte has remained the mainstay on the left-hand side and has maintained an exemplary level of performance.
This season has also seen Laporte add goals to his game, chipping in with three in the league and two in the Europa league.
A strong part of his game is his pace, a more than useful asset to possess and allows his current side to be flexible with their lineup and defensive strategy, knowing that their young prodigy can cover should they employ a high defensive line.
Last but not least, Laporte is an excellent tackler. This might seem to be a forgone attribute required by a defender, but if you watch the game closely, the number of players who exhibit poor technique when tackling is quite high.
As noted by Opta stats during the 14/15 season, Laporte won 80% of tackles and made 90 recovery tackles, excellent numbers proving that the young man is certainly hard to beat and a person you can rely on when it comes to the crunch.
Truthfully, there are a few obvious glaring gaps in Laporte’s game whether it is tactical, physical or mental. As with any young player though, there are areas in which he can focus to improve on to ensure he reaches his world class potential.
Though he has good height, Aymeric needs to work on his judgement under crosses and long balls. There have been one or two occasions where smaller strikers such as Luciano Vietto or Paco Alcacer have looked to take advantage of Aymeric with their movement in the box before a cross is delivered.
The young man is also fierce competitor it has led to the odd rash decision and challenge - leading to a couple of red cards.
The more games he plays, the more Laporte will iron out his technique and become a formidable building block for whichever club can secure his services.
Bilbao’s president has been quoted saying they will only allow him to leave should his release clause be met (the figure currently stands at around €50 million)
“Laporte will only leave if he takes the decision and if someone pays his release clause."
But for a player, who can be the bedrock of your defence for 10+ years, it would appear a wise investment.
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