City target Laporte rebuffs move

LONDON • Aymeric Laporte is going nowhere, least of all to Manchester City.

The Athletic Bilbao defender yesterday dismissed reports he has agreed a deal with the English club, after British media reported on Monday that City have informed Athletic they are willing to activate the €50 million (S$77.87 million) release clause in his contract.

The player described the reports as "unfounded and inaccurate".

The Guardian reported that Pep Guardiola, who is set to take over as City manager in the summer, has identified the 21-year-old as his top target, ahead of Everton's John Stones, in the search for a young, ball-playing central defender.

The Spaniard is reportedly keen to overhaul City's defence, especially since expensive recruits Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi have failed to convince. Moreover, captain Vincent Kompany's ongoing calf problems are a major concern.

But Laporte, who is in the early stages of his recovery from a broken leg and dislocated ankle and whose current deal at Athletic runs until 2019, has moved to quell talk of an imminent deal.

He said: "Given the unfounded and inaccurate news appearing in the media, my message to the fans of Athletic is very clear and simple.

"In my mind I have only the desire to be useful to the club and my team-mates, to achieve maximum goals this season, as well as recover well from my injury.

"Athletic will always be the first to know about anything that might happen in the future.

"My loyalty and deep respect for this club is full."

Despite Laporte's comments, City are expected to continue their pursuit of the French defender. Bilbao are likely to hold out for a figure close to his release clause due to the club's policy of only signing players with Basque roots.

Guardiola, the current Bayern Munich coach, will not officially take over at the Etihad Stadium until June 23. He is also reportedly keen to sign Ilkay Gundogan, the Borussia Dortmund and Germany midfielder, Barcelona's German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal's English midfielder.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'City target Laporte rebuffs move'. Print Edition | Subscribe