Football News

Did Pep Guardiola really say Aymeric Laporte is better than Van Dijk?

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 17:49, 30 August 2019

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has described Aymeric Laporte as the best “left-sided” central defender in football.

The 25-year-old Frenchman is enjoying a second full season with City having initially joined in January 2018.

Since arriving from Athletic Bilbao for a reported £57m he’s become a mainstay under Guardiola helping the Citizens win back-to-back Premier League titles.

His individual performances have subsequently been lauded with many observers placing him along the league’s best defenders.

However, not everyone is a fan, until recently France national team boss Didier Deschamps has avoided calling him up. Laporte is also eligible to represent Spain but it is Les Bleus to whom he’s committed.

France’s loss has been City’s gain and Guardiola is in no doubt how special he is, though a choice of words raised eyebrows, as it could apply to Virgil van Dijk.

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“For me it was a mistake when we said he is one of the best left-sided centre backs in Europe. He is the best,” he told reporters.

“I am incredibly grateful to Didier Deschamps  and so happy for Aymeric because he deserves it.

“Hopefully he can play for the national team for a long time. All of us are so happy for him because he wanted this call for a long time.”

The term “left-sided” if meant literally would put Laporte up against Van Dijk – recently crowned as Europe’s best defender – who plays on the left side of Liverpool’s central defence. However, if Guardiola meant left-footed, then he wouldn’t be in direct competition with the Dutchman.

How important has Laporte been to City? Five key things to know…

  • Laporte joined City from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018 for a reported £57m.
  • He’s since gone on to make 67 appearances in all competitions, registering five goals and three assists.
  • Last season he averaged 85.6 passes per game in the Premier League, more than anyone.
  • So far in this season’s Premier League no one has made more passes (297) than him.
  • Guardiola has subsequently described him as the best “left-sided” centre-back in football.