Why Aymeric Laporte Is the 1 Athletic Bilbao Player Barcelona Would Like to Sign

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistAugust 13, 2015

Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic, left, jumps for the ball with Athletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte during the final of the Copa del Rey soccer match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, May 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Barcelona's centre-back problems have affected the club for a long time, and now they finally seem to have sorted them out.

Gerard Pique has returned to his best form, and Javier Mascherano has never looked more solid beside him as he does now.

They were the foundation that the club's treble success last season was built on.

Pique and Mascherano, together at the back as the club kept a clean sheet against Atletico Madrid in the Vicente Calderon and won La Liga.

It was the same pair, big and little, at the heart of the defence for their subsequent wins over Athletic Club, in the Copa del Rey, and Juventus, in the Champions League.

BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 6: Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano of Barcelona celebrate the victory after the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus Turin and FC Barcelona at Olympiastadion on June 6, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Gett
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Furthermore, they also have three decent back-up options. There's Jeremy Mathieu, brought in for €20 million from Valencia last summer.

Though many considered him a needlessly dangerous and expensive purchase, he has proved he belongs at Barcelona with some good performances when required, as well as scoring against Real Madrid in the second Clasico of the season.

Marc Bartra has long been deemed a hot prospect, though his time may never come at the Camp Nou.

Sevilla FC's Adil Rami (C) vies with Barcelona's German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen (R) and Barcelona's defender Marc Bartra (L) during the UEFA Super Cup final football match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC on August 11, 2015 at the Boris Paicha

Some shaky pre-season performances haven't done him much good, and it's tough to see him getting in ahead of either of the two first choices for a while.

Bartra is definitely a talent, and it would be a shame for Barcelona to see him leave like Martin Montoya, to Inter Milan.

Neither Mathieu nor Bartra covered themselves in glory during the 5-4 victory over Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup on Tuesday night.

Thomas Vermaelen, meanwhile, finally seems to be fit after missing the entirety of last season, bar the final league game.

So on paper, there's no need for reinforcement. And yet, if Barcelona were offered the chance to sign one player from Athletic Club, they would pick the Bilbao side's centre-back, Aymeric Laporte.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Not because they are lacking their own options, but because at 21 the defender is already a star and has enormous potential. He could go on to become one of the finest in his position in world football.

Laporte signed a new deal with Athletic in June, according to the Guardian, which takes his minimum release fee clause up to €50 million.

He's now contracted to play for the side until 2019, so it's quite unlikely Barcelona will make a move for him any time soon.

But if they could take him from Athletic easily, they would do it in a heartbeat.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 30: Neymar of FC Barcelona competes for the ball with Aymeric Laporte of Athletic Club during the Copa del Rey Final match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club at Camp Nou on May 30, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramo
David Ramos/Getty Images

If Joan Laporta had won the club presidential election, Goal.com say he would have tried to sign the Frenchman.

Pilar Suarez wrote: "Laporta has a good relationship with Laporte's agent, Jorge Mendes, and sources have told Goal that the club would offer him a five year deal with an annual salary of €3.5 million."

When Barcelona face Athletic in the Spanish Super Cup, Laporte will prove tougher resistance to their sparkling forwards than most defenders do.

He has an extremely cool head and is mature beyond his 21 years. He's faced up to some of La Liga's best players and put his body on the line for the Basque team.

BILBAO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 08:  Neymar of FC Barcelona duels for the ball with Aimeric Laporte of Athletic Club during the La Liga match between Athletic Club and FC Barcelona at San Mames Stadium on February 8, 2015 in Bilbao, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Laporte made his first-team domestic debut in 2012 at just 18 years old and has kicked on massively from then.

Strong in the air and quick to snuff out threats, he has a fine reading of the game and is good with the ball, which suits the way Barcelona play. The latter would be a big selling point for the Catalan side.

If any one man is going to get in the way of Barcelona and the fifth trophy of their potential sextuple, it is Aymeric Laporte.