Manchester United have reportedly made contact with Athletic Bilbao about potentially signing their star centre-back Aymeric Laporte, although it’s said they’re likely to face competition for his signature from European champions Barcelona.
That’s according to Sport (h/t George Bellshaw of Metro), who claimed the Red Devils, with Jose Mourinho said to be appointed as the club’s next manager, will spend big this summer and have isolated the Frenchman as a potential solution to their defensive issues. However, the Blaugrana are also said to be keen on the 21-year-old.
There’s a lot of excitement about Laporte, who has excelled with the Basque outfit despite his tender years. Here’s a glimpse at what he can offer:
Put simply, this would be a significant coup for United; Laporte is exactly the kind of player who would make a massive difference at the base of this team.
The Athletic man has the physicality to cope with English football, having shown his aerial dominance and tenacity in the tackle on myriad occasions at the San Mames already. Additionally, he’s dynamic, quick across the ground and also capable of chipping in with goals from set pieces.
But what makes Laporte such an extraordinary talent is his ability to read the game. As we can see here courtesy of WhoScored.com, he’s razor sharp for a player so young:
Aymeric Laporte: Only Diego Godín (259) has made more interceptions in the last 3 La Liga seasons than @Laporte (250)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 10, 2016
That’s what United need alongside Chris Smalling. Not only would Laporte add balance to the back-four as a left-footed player, but he’s confident in possession, too. However, as much as this would be a tremendous acquisition for the Red Devils, if Barcelona are also keen on landing him, United will find it extremely difficult to get ahead in the race.
Additionally, as noted by Bellshaw, his release clause stands at a whopping £38.7 million; Spanish football expert Rafael Hernandez thinks that could be problematic in him moving to an elite side:
Javi Martínez and Ander Herrera were manageable, but Laporte’s case of €60-70m for a young centre back would be a first.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) January 15, 2016
Staying in Bilbao wouldn’t necessarily be detrimental to Laporte’s development, as he’s getting regular football against some of the finest attacking talent in the world in La Liga. But he’s destined for the top in years to come, and you suspect if United are to stand any chance of getting him on board, they’ll need to be ruthless in the upcoming window.
Angel Di Maria Clause Revealed
According to the Football Leaks website (h/t the Daily Telegraph), upon signing for Manchester United in the summer of 2014 from Real Madrid, Angel Di Maria had a clause inserted in his contract to prevent the Red Devils selling him to Barcelona.
Now at Paris Saint-Germain, the Argentina midfielder had a difficult season at Old Trafford before being moved on. However, according to the aforementioned link, United would have had to pay Real a staggering €50 million had they opted to move him on to the Catalan giants.
Since making the move to the French capital, Di Maria has excelled, helping PSG build up a 24-point lead atop Ligue 1. Here are some of his standout moments with the club so far:
United manager Louis van Gaal seemed to have pulled off a stunning capture when he brought the midfielder to Old Trafford at the beginning of last season, with some scintillating displays in his first few matches at the club. However, injuries were followed by a loss of form and then an inability to find a position in the Dutchman’s rigid structure.
Barcelona are a club always on the lookout for top-class players, and Di Maria is certainly someone who fits into that bracket. But given his playing style—which often sees the Argentinian squandering possession and running into traffic—is more effective in direct setups, he doesn’t seem like the right fit for the Catalan giants.