“I am 300% with Spain” – Laporte ready to face France, country of birth

The grand finale of what has been an exciting Final Four Nations League tournament will be a momentous occasion for players from France and Spain, but for one in particular, Sunday’s spectacle will be remembered for a long time.

Aymeric Laporte has played more than 50 times for France’s youth teams, as captain of the Blues at the Under-17, Under-18, Under-19 and Under-21 levels. He was then called up to three senior teams, but never made an appearance under coach Didier Deschamps.

The solution to his lack of international action was drastic to say the least, but, after becoming a Spanish citizen in May, the change of allegiance paid off.

The 12th Manchester City defender international, 27, in that short span is set to face his native country in Milan on Sunday as Spain seek to become Nations League champions – an event for which he is more than ready.

“It will be a very special meeting for me but, as I have always said, I am very focused. I am 100% or even 300% with Spain,” said Laporte on the official Twitter account of the ‘Spain.

“I’m going to give my all. I’m going to face old teammates (French youth teams) but the only thing I can think of is winning this final, that’s the most important thing for me at the moment.”

The center-back grew up in southwest France but moved to Spain in 2010 to join Athletic Bilbao’s youth academy.

The decision to change country, which players can do as long as they have not played more than three matches for that nation before the age of 21 and have not participated in a World Cup or a continental tournament, was not easy.

HUGE CONTRIBUTION

In 2016, Laporte said that in international service with France, he had the chance to become a Spanish citizen but chose to stay with the Blues in search of a first selection.

His full international salvation, however, remained elusive as Laporte suffered an injury when he was named to the France squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Albania and Andorra, before the Spanish coach Luis Enrique’s interest won’t be piqued.

“As soon as Aymeric was able to play for us he started to make a huge contribution,” Luis Enrique said in July. “He is a leading player in the offensive and defensive phases.

“He is an excellent defender and we are all delighted that he has decided to play for Spain.”

The relationship with Deschamps was not so positive, with both sides accusing each other of questioning whether Laporte had sent a message to the France coach to inform him of the change of allegiance.

It’s all water under the bridges now, with Laporte regaining his place at City’s side this season with a series of impressive performances, a key part of an exciting young Spanish team.

Spain shocked many by breaking Italy’s 37-game unbeaten world record en route to the Nations League final and, after falling in the semi-finals against the Italians at Euro 2020, Laporte aims to go all the way this time around.

“It was very important to take our revenge on Italy after what happened at the European Championship,” he added. “Beating Italy gives us the confidence to come home with a gold medal around our neck.”

(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris)

About Guillermo Russell

Guillermo Russell

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