Manchester City’s protracted pursuit of Athletic Bilbao centre-back Aymeric Laporte ended in disappointment this summer, when the player surprisingly signed a new contract with the Basque club. The 22-year-old had seemed on the verge of a move to the Etihad Stadium and news of a contract renewal came out of the blue.
So what happened? According to Catalan newspaper SPORT, a deal for Laporte was practically closed. City had paid his hefty release clause and Laporte had agreed in principle to move, then several days later had a change of heart and opted to stay at the San Mamés.
Laporte is now the highest paid player in Athletic Bilbao history and has been at the centre of an international tug of war between France and Spain, both of whom he is eligible to play for.
According to the report, a source in City’s upper management said Laporte was the “only player who rejected joining Pep’s project”. Others were linked like Leonardo Bonucci, but in that case it was Juventus’ refusal to negotiate more than the player’s will to stay that made a deal impossible.
In a different world, Aymeric Laporte could be partnering John Stones in the heart of City’s defence against Everton this weekend. Will he regret his decision? Time will tell.