Barcelona may be pretty much unbeatable on the pitch but they’ve admitted defeat to Manchester City off of it.
According to Spanish newspaper Sport, the Catalan club have given up the chase for Athletic Club defender Aymeric Laporte because they believe that the Citizens have already won.
The 21-year-old Frenchman is yet to make an appearance for his national team - mainly due to the stiff completion from the likes of Kurt Zouma and Raphael Varane - but Laporte has been impressive for Athletic this campaign.
It was believed that Barcelona were favourites the sign the talented youngster but one man gave City the advantage - incoming manager Pep Guardiola.
The same report says that Guardiola told City chiefs to pursue Laporte in the days after it was confirmed he would be manager next season and it seems the central defender will be heading to the Premier League next campaign.
Guardiola must have seen his future side’s defending during times this season without their influential captain Vincent Kompany and decided he needed to buy reinforcements immediately.
Laporte only signed a new contract at Los Leones in June last year which lasts until 2019. However, like all Spanish contracts, it includes a minimum release clause and Laporte’s is around £40 million.
It’s unlikely that City would splash that amount of money on such a young defender but it poses as a worst case scenario as they look to sign their number one defensive target.
Laporte is in his fourth season at Athletic, helping them to a seventh placed finish last season after a magnificent campaign previously when the club came fourth.
During that 2013/14 season, Laporte was named in the La Liga Team of the season.
However, Athletic are currently eighth in the league this season and it seems unlikely they will qualify for even the Europa League via their position in La Liga.
Understandably, someone of Laporte’s ability will want to be playing in Europe, opening the door to a potential move to City.
It’s no surprise that the Citizens are looking to sign a central-back given their embarrassing defending at times this season.
The club have conceded 28 goals in the Premier League this campaign, more than Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Southampton and the same as Watford.
Martin Demichelis is now 35, while Otamendi - who was signed for almost £30 million - has been really poor at times this season.
And the less said about £31.8 million purchase Eliaquim Manga the better.
Hopefully, City will get it right this time when the spend big on a centre-back as Kompany looks for his next centre-back partner.