Catalan newspaper Sport claims that Barcelona have forfeited the race in the signing of Athletic Bilbao’s highly rated defender Aymeric Laporte. The European champions have been made aware that Laporte will be flying to the Premier League next summer. They can now stop day-dreaming of signing him and instead must look for options elsewhere.
Laporte is probably heading towards Manchester City. Pep Guardiola wants him to shore up City’s fragile defence. Barcelona were told, shortly after Pep was officially announced as City’s new manager for next summer, that City had already signed an agreement in principle for Laporte.
Bilbao are simply waiting for the transfer to be finalised, although the details of the transfer fee are yet unknown. In worst case scenario, City would still pay €50m, Laporte’s release clause, to complete the deal.
Barcelona have tried to sign Laporte in the past but they were met with a strong resistance every time. The club aren’t willing to pay his release clause, and may regret for missing out on such a highly talented defender.
Laporte himself admitted earlier this month that he is focussed with his job at Bilbao, and not perturbed with the Barcelona transfer links, as he was never contacted by the Catalan club at the first place.
“For now, I’m at Athletic and focused on the season at hand. Barca are the best team in the world, but for now there is nothing concrete and no-one has spoken to me directly. I wait patiently,” he said.
“As for possible contact with Barca, you have to ask my club because I’m under contract. Athletic have never mentioned any interest from Barca to me.”
The same newspaper reported last week that Manchester United had been plotting an audacious move to sign the 21-year-old and even had initiated contacts with the player’s agent.
To sum up: Laporte is heading to the Premier League and chances are high that he would land up at Manchester City, but it is far from being done, and Manchester United could pull up a shock move as well.