Before France – Spain. Exiled in Saudi Arabia, Aymeric Laporte responded to the skeptics

Before France – Spain. Exiled in Saudi Arabia, Aymeric Laporte responded to the skeptics
Before France – Spain. Exiled in Saudi Arabia, Aymeric Laporte responded to the skeptics

After a final season at Manchester City with very little playing time, the Agenais’ choice to sign in Saudi Arabia could have kept him away from La Roja. Coach Luis de la Fuente, who like Luis Enrique made him a regular, did not withdraw his confidence in him. “I spoke to him about it before making the decision,” he said on June 22 at a press conference. For me, the national team is important. That’s where I’ve had the most fun in recent years. It’s a source of pride to represent Spain.”

Public opinion and the Iberian media were much more sceptical before the tournament. “There was a debate about his ability to perform,” says André Onrubia Ramos, a journalist for the daily newspaper As. “But he played very good matches and the question no longer arises. He is at the level we knew he was at.”

The former Atletic Bilbao player (30 years old, 33 caps), who opted three years ago for the country of his Basque roots after participating in two gatherings with the Blues without coming on (in October 2016 and March 2017), had only played 37 minutes during the two preparation matches. Then he had withdrawn from the opening match against Croatia (3-0) due to muscle discomfort. His starting position, at the expense of Real Madrid defender Nacho against Italy (1-0) had almost surprised. He has chained everything together since then, gaining momentum with a masterclass against Georgia (4-1) in the round of 16 (100% duels won, 98% passes successful) and a test passed with solidity against Germany (77% duels won, 92% passes successful).

“A lot of speculation”

“There has been a lot of speculation about my fitness. There are prejudices about the Saudi league. In terms of pace, it’s similar or that’s what I certainly feel. We had time before the Euro, and I prepared myself,” said the defender on June 22, who played 39 matches with Al-Nassr, alongside Senegalese Sadio Mané and Cristiano Ronaldo. And who quotes French midfielder N’Golo Kanté, on the ability to respond to European intensity despite exile.

The tension surrounding his case has been accompanied by criticism on social networks due to the French nationality of the two central defenders: him and Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad). “Everyone will give their opinion. What we ask is that it is not defamatory, because it affects families,” replied the player, married to a Spanish woman and defended by De la Fuente.

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