Manchester United have been linked with Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte for the last 12 months, but nothing has materialised from the speculation. But with the Red Devils being tipped to sell Marcos Rojo, while makeshift defender Daley Blind has at times been unconvincing in his new role, the Red Devils are going to be in need of a new face to bolster their backline and Laporte would be perfect for Louis van Gaal’s men.
The Bilbao centre-back has made six La Liga appearances this season, averaging a tackle or interception every 16 minutes, while having made 25 clearances as well as winning 64% of his aerial duels. Laporte is just 21 years of age, but has been a regular in the backline for the last two campaigns. He’s made more than 115 appearances for the Basque club, and looks set to make a big-money move to further his international career.
Both Spain and France want the promising defender, and Laporte will be thinking about his chances of playing in next summer’s European Championships with both nations. While he’s playing regular football in Spain, he’s sure to make either final squad for the tournament, but could see his stock rise if he’s performing for a side of the stature of Manchester United. Barcelona have also been linked with the youngster’s services, with reports suggesting a £35M bid will be lodged.
United have a void in the backline that could be perfectly solved by Laporte. Chris Smalling is a regular fixture in the defence, but he needs a regular partner who could form a formidable playing relationship for the next few years. There aren’t any better 21-year-old centre-backs than the French U21 international, but the competition for his services could make United’s task a lot harder to sign their coveted target.
Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo are the other defensive options Manchester United have alongside Smalling, but midfield Blind has been operating in a deeper role, and his form has been hot and cold as a result. Laporte boasts excessive pace, is uncompromising in the tackle, and very composed in possession. He’s highly combative, and has incredible timing with his challenges. Sometimes his commitment to the tackle can see him picking up cheap yellow cards, but at his age he has real potential.
With so much experience at such a young age, Laporte is one of the best possible young defenders to mould. He looks worth every penny of £35M, but can United fight off Barcelona for his services?