Five things to know about Manchester City target Aymeric Laporte
Athletic Bilbao centre-back Aymeric Laporte is poised to join Manchester City before the transfer window closes in a reported €65m switch.
The Frenchman came close to joining City in the summer of 2016 but turned down the move and instead signed a new contract with the La Liga side until June 2020.
A youth product of Athletic, the 23-year-old has started 19 league games this season and has made a total of 161 league appearances for the club. Here are five things you may not know about Laporte.
1. Football runs in Laporte's veins
Laporte began his football career at the age of five, at home club SU Agen Football. "My father played football and rugby," Laporte told La Liga TV. "My mother played football for a long time, my eldest sister also played for several years and so did my uncle."
Laporte played one season with Aviron Bayonnais FC before joining Athletic's youth sector in 2010. He made his league debut in November of 2012, becoming the second Frenchman to have played for the Basque outfit after Bixente Lizarazu.
"It was at home to Celta and I played the last minutes of the game," Laporte recalled. "It was one of the most beautiful feelings; the fans, the atmosphere at the San Mames stadium, to win, it was a dream debut. Athletic has taught me a lot."
Promoted to the first-team in the 2012-13 campaign, the left-footed centre-back has been a regular ever since.
2. Former Arsenal star Sylvain Wiltord was his idol
Laporte played as a striker early in his career and became a big fan of former Arsenal and France forward Wiltord while the latter was on the books of Bordeaux.
"I started out as a striker, I finished eight times as the highest goal scorer in all the tournaments," Laporte said. "I've had several idols but they weren't stars. When I was very young, I liked very much a striker that played for Girondins de Bordeaux, which was the team I supported. It was Sylvain Wiltord. I had Wiltord's jersey. I also liked [former Portuguese striker and ex-Bordeaux player] Pauleta. I celebrated scoring goals just like he did."
3. He has had to overcome injury issues
The strong, tall and powerful ball-playing defender has endured a few injuries so far in his career.
In May 2013, Laporte underwent left knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, having previously suffered a similar injury to his right knee.
The biggest setback occured in March 2016, when he suffered a broken fibula and a dislocated right ankle while playing for France Under-21s. The injury ruled him out for the remainder of the season and left him unavailable for selection for Euro 2016.
4. He turned down Manchester City in the summer of 2016
Laporte attracted the attention of some top European clubs after making 44 starts for Athletic in the 2015-16 campaign. After turning down a move to City, the defender signed a four-year deal with the Basque outfit in the summer of 2016 and became the highest paid player at the club.
His release clause was set at €65m for the next two seasons, increasing to €70m for the two after that.
"[Pep] Guardiola proved what a good person he is, besides being a great coach," Laporte said at the time, in quotes reported by El Correo. "But I said no having spoken at length with him, with my club and evaluating it with my family and my entourage. It wasn't too early. It was just pros and cons -- amount of time on the pitch, me recovering from injury. These aren't easy things to think about at my age."
5. He is still waiting for France
Laporte has played at every youth level for France, even captaining the U21 side, but has yet to make his debut with the senior team.
Spain had wanted Laporte to become a naturalized player before France called him up in September 2016 for two World Cup qualifiers. He did not feature in either match but has since declared his intention to play for Les Bleus.
"I've been waiting for the call-up for a long time," he said at the time. "It's something I've dreamed of. I know I have to continue to persevere and be humble. You can say that the Spain national team wanted my services. I never thought I would play for Spain. I've always been clear and I've always said that my first desire was to play for France."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.