Manchester City solidify defence with club-record $110 million fee to sign French star Aymeric Laporte

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Associated Press

Manchester City signed France under-21 international Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao for a club-record fee of 65 million euros (NZ$110 million) this morning, taking its spending on center backs since 2014 to about NZ$341 million.

FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, Athletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte in action during Copa del Rey, 16 round, against FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. 23-year-old Athletic Bilbao says defender Frenchman Aymeric Laporte is reported Monday Jan. 29, 2018, to have paid his buyout clause, looks set to leave the club, opening the way for a transfer to Manchester City. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, FILE)

Aymeric Laporte in action for Athletic Bilbao.

Source: Associated Press

The 23-year-old Laporte came close to joining City in 2016 — when Pep Guardiola took charge of the current Premier League leaders — but backed out of the move after feeling the Frenchman wasn't quite ready.

Eighteen months later, City clinched the signing of the left-footed, ball-playing defender after meeting his buy-out clause, strengthening the team's options in what has been a problem position for Guardiola and previous managers.

"He's strong in the air, good quality with the pass. He is experienced, fast and he has the skills we need," Guardiola said. "He is the perfect age, 23 years old, so hopefully he will have a long career here at Manchester City."

Laporte is the second most expensive defender in soccer history, with only Virgil van Dijk — who joined Liverpool from Southampton for 75 million pounds (NZ$144 million) at the start of January — costing more.

Since City won its most recent Premier League title in 2014, Eliaquim Mangala has arrived from FC Porto for a reported NZ$81 million and Nicolas Otamendi joined from Valencia for $61 million in 2015. Another center back, John Stones, cost an initial $91.5 million in 2016.

Vincent Kompany, the club's other center back, has been at City since 2008 and is the captain. But the Belgium international might be surplus to requirements from next season, especially considering his injury record.

City also spent about NZ$231 million on three fullbacks — Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo — in the last transfer window.

"Last summer we had a problem, with six or seven players out of contract and over 30 years old, so we needed to make a change," Guardiola said.

"We decided to sign four or five different players and at this stage, Manchester City, when you want to compete at the highest level, you need to spend.

"One day, maybe this club will spend 130-200 million pounds on one player. So far, we haven't had to do that."

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