Aymeric Laporte has won it all in English football – three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, three EFL Cups and a Community Shield – and by the end of this season he might have won European football’s biggest prize too, with Manchester City in the Champions League final. International caps, however, have been harder to come by for Aymeric Laporte but, thanks to Spain, that could be about to change.
While Laporte is widely seen as one of the best in the world in his position, he has yet to be capped at international level. For reasons never truly explained, France manager Didier Deschamps repeatedly overlooked the 26-year-old despite Laporte winning no fewer than 51 caps for Les Blues’ under-21 side.
It’s therefore understandable that Aymeric Laporte has switched his international allegiance with the City defender set to play for Spain at Euro 2020. Paperwork was lodged with FIFA last week, clearing the way for Laporte to be included in Luis Enrique’s squad for the summer. He could make all the difference for Spain.
While Spain are expected to be among the frontrunners at the Euros, they are in a state of transition as a football nation. While Sergio Busquets and Sergio Ramos are still hanging around, the group that delivered major tournament glory in 2008, 2010 and 2012 has faded. It’s now up to a new generation to carry La Roja into a new era.
Pau Torres is one such member of that new generation, with the Villarreal defender expected to start for Spain this summer. Ordinarily, Ramos would be his central defensive partner, but the Real Madrid captain hasn’t played much in weeks due to injury. Enrique therefore can’t count on his fitness for the duration of a whole tournament.
This is where Aymeric Laporte could drastically improve the defensive fortunes of Spain, either as a partner to Ramos or Torres. The 26-year-old has played at the top level of the club game for a number of years and there’s no reason to believe he can’t carry that experience into the international arena, even if he will have to get used to his new Spain teammates quickly.
Laporte’s ability on the ball will give Spain the ability to play out from the back on both sides of the defence with Torres similarly comfortable in possession. It used to be the case that coaches would prefer only one of their centre backs to stride forward with the ball, but the modern game depends that all defenders be capable of pushing up the pitch. It can give a team a certain ambidextrous quality.
Ruben Dias’ arrival at the Etihad Stadium last summer knocked Laporte down the Manchester City pecking order, but he has still performed well when called upon this season. It is not a sign of Laporte’s inability that he is not currently in Pep Guardiola’s favoured XI, but a sign of City’s astonishing strength in depth. Laporte would be a key figure for any other side in the Premier League.
France’s loss can be Spain’s gain. Enrique boasts a number of talented youngsters upon which he will build the country’s next great side (see the likes of Ansu Fati and Pedri), but Laporte can help bridge the gap between the last generation and the next. At 26, he is a player in his prime, something Spain have very few of right now.
This summer’s Euros might come a little early for this particular group of players, but Spain have the building blocks of a team that can win major tournaments again. Aymeric Laporte can be one of the building blocks for Spain, now that he finally made the decision to walk away from the country of his birth for one which wants him to wear their shirt.
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