Aymeric Laporte has passed his biggest test for Spain by winning over their fans… and Barcelona’s desire to sign him will increase if he impresses against Robert Lewandowski’s Poland
- Aymeric Laporte has faced a battle to gain the respect of Spanish supporters
- The Manchester City star won many over when questioned on the subject
- He is set for a tough test against Robert Lewandowski’s Poland on Saturday
- There is talk that Barcelona are interested in signing him this summer
- Another performance like against Sweden will increase their interest even more
Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte faces the game of his life on Saturday against Poland’s Robert Lewandowski but he believes he has already won a bigger battle – gaining the respect of Spain supporters.
In his first media appearance since switching allegiances the former France under-21 international was asked: ‘Normally players play for the country where they were born. Do you feel fully Spanish enough to defend the badge, the nation and the anthem?’ Laporte’s measured, impassioned response, that ended with a promise to give everything to defend the shirt he had chosen to wear, won over most of the doubters in one fell swoop.
After an impressive debut against Sweden he went further in an interview with Marca this week saying: ‘What upset me [about the question] was that it felt like an attack on me. It’s a complicated and delicate issue. Many are in favour, many others are against but ultimately I’m here because I want to be.
Aymeric Laporte has won his biggest battle yet by winning over their supporters
The defender put in a stellar effort during Spain’s 0-0 draw with Sweden in their opening game
‘Luis Enrique told me there was interest in taking me to the Euros for Spain and I was delighted.’ Laporte’s City team-mate Ferran Torres has already given him the full vote of confidence regards Saturday’s challenge. ‘We are not worried, our centre-backs will eat up Lewandowski,’ he said earlier this week.
‘I hope it goes that way,’ said Laporte. That’s the objective. He’s a top striker and we are going to have to be very focused. But we also have to play our game. If it goes the way it did the other day then it will be very difficult for them.’
Spain set a new tournament record with 419 passes in the first half against Sweden in their opening group match but were unable to score.
‘Not winning a game when you have dominated 75 per cent of possession leaves you feeling that you have let a victory slip away,’ Laporte said and he admitted as well as missing chances, Spain allowed Sweden two clear-cut opportunities.
‘They had more chances than they should have. We can’t allow that to happen.’ Another strong performance from the 27-year-old and Barcelona’s desire to take him to the Camp Nou this summer is only going to increase. The Catalans have already signed Eric Garcia from City and they want to bring in a new left-footed centre-back.
This week a story surfaced claiming Laporte was unsettled at Manchester City and interested in the move. He responded with a tweet, that included Pinocchio nose Emojis, stating that the author of the news story had not spoken to his representatives.
Laporte will be given the task of keeping Poland’s Robert Lewandowski quiet on Saturday
A good performance will increase Barcelona’s interest in signing the left-sided centre-back
But when asked what truth there was in his discontent in Manchester and his desire to join Barça he said: ‘I’m not going to deny it. All I did [via Twitter] was deny that the story had come from someone who had spoken to my team.’
The man Laporte will be charged with stopping has a stunning record for Poland in qualifying. But in stark contrast Lewandowski has only scored twice in 12 games in big tournaments netting against Greece in the group stage at Euro 2012 and in the quarter-finals at Euro 2016 against Portugal.
Poland coach Paulo Sousa will be without the suspended Grzegorz Krychowiak. He was sent off against Slovakia in a 2-1 defeat that leaves them needing at least a point to maintain a realistic chance of surviving the group stage.
Spain have a fit squad for the game after Sergio Busquets tested negative for coronavirus yesterday. He is back in training although unlikely to start.
Laporte is said to be unsettled with his lack of game time last season at Manchester City
Coach Luis Enrique yesterday confirmed that Alvaro Morata, who was whistled by Spain supporters in the first game after missing several chances, will definitely start on Saturday.
The player has received the backing of his team-mates since the Sweden game. Pablo Sarabia summed up that support on Thursday telling reporters: ‘The responsibility to score goals is everyone’s. Morata is a brilliant player. The statistics show that he is one of the best in Europe.’
As well as missing Busquets from the team they have missed him in his capacity to organize the sweepstake. Spanish radio Cope reported on Thursday that the squad’s travel manager Antonio Limones has taken over the organization of the 100 euros-a-head predictions league in which so far coach Luis Enrique is 33rd in the table of 42 participants.