Manchester City have broken their record transfer fee after paying the £57m release clause of Aymeric Laporte.
City’s decision to finance the move has drawn a number of questions from critics but the club were completely right to move for the former Bilbao defender.
Even City’s harshest critics could not deny that Laporte is a necessity for Guardiola’s side, despite the fact that prior to his arrival at the club, City already had four current first-team central-defenders at the club.
Vincent Kompany, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Tosin Adarabioyo all had some fantastic attirubtes but none quite fitted the profile like Laporte.
Kompany has been plagued with injuries for several years now, and although he has regained fitness, he will have to settle for a rotation role as he looks to enter the latter stages of his career.
On the other hand, Otamendi is 29-years-old, and although his form has been fantastic with him continuing to play a crucial part in the race, City are planning for the years ahead.
In the case of youth, Tosin Adarabioyo has been competent in his handful of appearances but unfortunately looks to settle for a bit-part role for the foreseeable future if he remains at the Blues.
City’s stubborn stance in the past has previously seen targets, who rejected the Blues’ approach regarding a possible move, not considered for possible purchases.
It wasn’t too long ago that sources close to the club told Goal that City’s Sporting Director, Txiki Begiristain, doesn’t forgive after it was decided that Laporte wouldn’t be considered a transfer target in the future.
The France international previously turned down a move to City in the summer of 2016 when City had agreed a deal to bring the Athletic Bilbao player to the club.
Laporte had since confirmed that the bid came when he was injured and he had concerned about how he would adapt to a new country and a new league, which is completely understandable given the circumstances.
However, Laporte has been given a second chance and rightly so.
There is no doubt he perfectly fits the bill in what City are looking for defensively; a left-footed, ball-playing centre-back who can not only play out from the back adeptly but also a compelling figure in terms of the defensive attributes that make him a complete defender.
Laporte also adds tools to City’s build-up that can make them even stronger in the attack – an attribute that has been missing since Aleksander Kolarov’s departure to AS Roma.
His cross field passing allows the right-winger, often Raheem Sterling, to hug the touchline and stretch the pitch to it’s full capability. In order to spread the play when the opposition left-back gets dragged over to the ball, it was used as a ‘secret weapon’ last year and is another option to aid City’s attacking prowess.
The depth of quality in Guardiola’s squad means Laporte will have stiff competition for a place in the side week-in-week-out. How does the Frenchman compare to our most frequently used defensive options?
From a defensive approach, he is proficient in his personal battles, which he will have to get used to quickly in the Premier League as he has won 54.12% of his duels, the second best percentage out of the quad, only bettered by John Stones’ 58.46%.
From an aerial perspective, when facing City, more often than not the opponent’s have a ‘route-one’ game-plan to play it long in an attempt to expose City’s arial facilities.
However, Laporte adds further fuel to City’s proficiency in the air, winning 69.44% of his duels, slightly bettered by Stones (70.97%) and Kompany (75%). It also helps his case that with a soaring stature of 6’3, he should have no problem when facing the long-ball.
Oddly, Laporte has a worse pass completion percentage than his team-mates as the 23-year-old bolsters a relatively low 83%. Much of that can be explained by the fact Bilbao’s approach this season was to play long-ball football which is commonly seen in the Premier League.
Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be a cause for worry as he isn’t surrounded with completely likeminded individuals who share his ideology of how football should be played. Bilbao’s philosophy can feature long-balls and a physical approach, very stereotypical of a traditional ‘English team’ when it comes to it.
Laporte offers more dimensions to an already multi-dimensional side and furthers the prospect of returning to a back three, like seen in pre-season and the early stages of the season, with him filling in on the left side of that possible defensive trio.
His versatility between the formations is a key attribute that will allow him to be at the forefront of the Blues’ success for years to come.
Rules and records are there to be broken; transfer records and policy’s alike, and there is no doubting that Laporte is the perfect reason for doing so.