Next season promises to be an incredibly exciting one for Manchester City fans. Not only have they agreed a deal for Pep Guardiola, considered to be among the top managers in the world, to take over, but by signing Ilkay Gundogan and opening further talks with Borussia Dortmund over signing striker Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, they have shown they are willing to spend big. However they could be left to regret their failure to sign Aymeric Laporte after the centre back signed a new deal with Athletic Bilbao.
By Manchester City’s recent high standards, 2015/16 was a poor season for them. With arguably the best squad in the Premier League at their disposal, they failed to mount a serious title challenge, and it took until the final day for them to secure a place in next season’s Champions League.
Much of City’s problems came as a result of a leaky defence. Vincent Kompany was out injured regularly throughout the season, and both Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi struggled to live up to their large transfer fees.
It was rumoured that Guardiola wanted to bring in John Stones and Aymeric Laporte as his new centre back partnership, though this looks unlikely now that Laporte has signed a new four-year contract with the Athletic Bilbao. Given that City certainly need reinforcements at the back, the 22-year-old could be one that got away.
Laporte has made a real name for himself over the last few years in Spain after breaking into the Bilbao first team late in 2012. There have been times over the past couple of seasons where he has earned praise for his ability to neutralise some of the top attacking players in the world, in particular Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
In terms of what he looks for in a central defender, the Frenchman would have been the perfect signing for Guardiola. At 6ft 2in, Laporte is a strong, powerful defender with the right build for the Premier League, but more importantly he plays the ball out from the back.
Whereas previously City would have had to pay £39 million for the defender, after signing a new contract on Monday, his release clause is a massive £52 million. It is not out of the question that they will pay this much for him, but given that Laporte will have been aware of the concrete interest in him from Manchester, it seems unlikely that he will accept a move to England.
This will come as a blow to Manchester City and Guardiola, as Laporte is certainly a man who they could have built their defence around. Given the problems that they suffered in the position at times last season, City were always going to need to improve at the back, and signing Laporte certainly would have done that.