Manchester United & Arsenal chasing Aymeric Laporte

Laporte representing France Under-21 national side. (©GettyImages)

Aymeric Laporte may be left with a tough decision in the January transfer window as Manchester United and Arsenal prepare to meet him £32 million release clause.

Citing reports from Spain, The Express claims the Athletic Bilbao centre-back has landed on the radar of both Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal as they look to beef up their respective defences halfway through the season.

Both have struggled to keep clean sheets in the opening games of their Premier League campaigns. Both have only kept two out of nine games thus far with Arsenal conceding 11 goals and Manchester United leaking 13.

Defensive woes

Both Wenger and Van Gaal can put their defensive frailties down to misfortune. A succession of injuries has forced both managers into handing debuts to youth team members and play established stars out of position.

Arsenal have seen Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs suffer injuries of varying severity since August. Similarly, Van Gaal has been forced to hand debuts to both Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair to fill gaps left by Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling.

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Hot prospect

It is easy to see then why both Arsenal and Manchester United have been linked with Laporte. The 20-year-old is already a first team regular at the Basque club and is one of few exceptions to their strict recruitment rules.

Laporte has no links to the Basque region and hails from France, but plays for the club regardless. He has so far played every minute of Athletic's season in both La Liga and the Champions League.

His form caught the eye of France Under-21 coach Pierre Mankowski, who has since handed Laporte eight caps for the youth team. A call up to the senior squad seems inevitable.

Release clause

One problem for both Arsenal and Manchester United is Athletic Bilbao's tough stance on selling players. As they restrict themselves to fielding Basque players, they rarely look to cash in on their current stars as replacements usually come from the youth system.

That means they are unlikely to sell him for any less than his £32 million release clause. Although Laporte is a big talent, that would equal the fee Manchester City payed for Eliaquim Mangala, who is the Premier League's most expensive defender.

Also, as Laporte has played in the Champions League, he would not be eligible to play for Arsenal should he join in the second half of the season. That won't be a problem for Manchester United, of course, as they failed to qualify for this season's competition.

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