Curious international career of Aymeric Laporte and disagreement with Didier Deschamps
Aymeric Laporte could play the Euro 2020 round of 16 match in Bucharest on Monday, but he instead plays the one in Copenhagen.
In a tournament in which it has been difficult to know who is playing where and when it may not seem like a big deal, but for Laporte that’s it.
Born in Agen, some 80 miles south-east of Bordeaux, it will be Spain that the Manchester City defender will field tonight, and not France.
How did he get there? Okay, that’s complicated.
Athletic Bilbao’s screening service is so thorough just because it has to be.
With the club still applying its Basque-only policy – something that remains unique in top-level football – it must do its best to find players of Basque origin from an early age.
It was when Laporte was only 15 that he was noticed by Bilbao during his time at the Agen club, but as he was too young to move to the Basque Country, the club placed him in his brother club Bayonne, in the region of the French Basque Country. which is more famous for its rugby.
Ironically, Bayonne plays at a stadium named after its most famous footballing son, France 1998 World Cup winner Didier Deschamps.
He is a figure who was to play a big role in Laporte’s international future.
Exhibition of the first team
At the age of 16, Laporte was allowed to settle in the Basque Country and he quickly cut his teeth with lower league club Basconia on loan, as he learned all about the region his descendants came from. .
While it is vital for Athletic that a player carries some sort of family proof of a connection to the Basque Country, they also need to learn more, and Laporte has had a two-year difficult upbringing on what it meant being from the region.
At the age of 18 he was ready for Marcelo Bielsa’s first team, breaking into the camp of the current Leeds boss and becoming a mainstay of his successor Ernesto Valverde’s squad.
He integrated and identified himself as a Basque player in the most Basque club.
But internationally? Well, that was another story.
The great break that France would regret
If he was Basque enough for Athletic, Laporte was not Spanish enough for Spain.
The two places are of course very different, and the fact that his Basque roots come from his great-grandparents means that in FIFA’s eyes the defender was a Frenchman.
It doesn’t matter though.
Laporte happily made his way into France’s youth teams from Under 17 to Under 21, and in March 2016, while he was a regular on the athletics team, he was aiming for a place in the French team for their own European championships that summer. Then disaster.
Having already sparked interest in the Manchester City move, Laporte suffered a double ankle fracture in a European Under-21 Championship qualifier against Scotland.
If Deschamps had considered it for the Euro team, the decision was suddenly withdrawn.
The argument begins
After Euro 2016, Julen Lopetegui felt an opportunity.
The new Spanish coach, himself a proud Basque, told Laporte he wanted him in his squad. With no response from Deschamps, and because he could now try to qualify on the basis of residency, Laporte accepted the offer.
If that were to call Deschamps’ bluff, it worked, as Laporte was immediately called into France’s senior setup for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Case closed then, it was a Frenchman.
Well, not quite.
Laporte did not appear in any of the games he was called up for – against Bulgaria and the Netherlands – and he angrily returned to Bilbao, no doubt determined to prove to Deschamps he deserved a place in the ‘team against Samuel Umtiti of Barcelona and Raphael Varane of Real Madrid. .
His desire for higher status led to his 2018 move to Manchester City for a whopping £ 57million, and suddenly he got billed from one of the best center-backs on the continent.
His international future is unresolved, however, and with Deschamps happy with his center-backs, he continues to resist the urge to call him, despite Laporte’s starring role in City’s 2018-19 Premier League victory. .
A call then came for the Euro 2020 qualifiers at the start of the following season, but Laporte suffered a serious knee injury which derailed City’s season and called his own future into question.
The wrong number ?
“They didn’t call me. Although I don’t want to repeat this, I had sent a message and received no response,” Laporte told the Guardian of his international standoff, which ‘he said lasted six years.
“I have it here. Maybe he [Deschamps] changed my number, I have a new phone. Could be. I don’t know, but I answered the same number he called before.
“I didn’t get an answer then.”
Deschamps, for his part, told reporters that Laporte has been “lying” about it all for years, but the defender remains adamant.
So, France not calling him and another Spanish coach, this time Luis Enrique, wanting him for his team for Euro 2020, he decided to take the plunge.
He and the Spanish federation have both been pushing for him to obtain Spanish citizenship, which came conveniently just before the European Championships.
He was directly in Enrique’s 24-man squad (he decided he preferred that to 26), then walked straight into the squad, playing the full 90 minutes in each of the three group matches. Spain and scoring in the 5-0 rout. Slovakia.
He will start against Croatia on Monday and if Spain win, then their likely quarter-final opponents will be … you guessed it, France.
Laporte will definitely play in that one too.
And there is no doubt that it will be personal.