When Luis Enrique explains his game model, he tends to summarize it in three words: attack, pressure and ambition. Of this triad of concepts in which he divides his libretto, the Spanish coach points to the first one as the most transcendental of all. The Asturian coach assures that when he thinks about making an eleven the first thing he thinks about is the possibilities it can offer him in attack and not only refers to attacking midfielders or forwards. The coach is convinced of the initiation of the game from behind and that this forces him to recruit full-backs and centrals with good technique. Under these parameters, Luis Enrique urged the federative president, Luis Rubiales, and the sports director, José Francisco Molina, to expedite the express nationalization of Aymeric Laporte (France, 24 years old) with a view to the dispute of the last European Championship. Since then, the Manchester City center-back has played all the Red’s matches in full, except for one against Georgia (4-0), a month ago in Badajoz, in which he only played the first half. “He is a boy with character, very competitive, who has shown his personality and his quality playing in a position that is not his because he has almost always done it as a right-handed central defender. In addition, in the field he always helps his teammate with his corrections ”, they slip in the federation. The new football that imposes central demands that with the ball they are obliged to have the management of the midfielders. “Defenders are no longer defenders,” said Italian Chiellini recently in reference to the new mold of center-backs.
As the unquestionable leader for Luis Enrique of the Spanish defense, and beyond the emotional connotations of taking on the national team of his native country, this Sunday Laporte faces one of the most demanding tests that a central defender can be subjected to. The powerful French trident formed by Benzema, Mbappé and Griezmann awaits him. “If Ayme is here and has always played, it is because he is doing things well. He is a player of the highest level. The most important thing is to have this type of player because they have hierarchy and seniority ”, defends Mikel Oyarzabal. “He was always a very ambitious boy, at 15 and 16 years old he already had a developed body, he was strong and was doing very well at the top and that is very important for the center-backs. He kept telling me when he was going to go up to the first team ”, recalls Jabo Irureta, who coincided with Laporte when he directed Lezama.
Leader in passes
From the Eurocup, Laporte came out strengthened in the eyes of Luis Enrique and the sports management. They all highlighted that in Spain’s best match, the semi-final against Italy, he was essential in the exit of the ball and also in the crosses and in the duels that prevented Italy from progressing during the 120 minutes that the match lasted. Laporte finished the European Championship as the Red player who gave the most passes, 690, with a success rate of 93%. The dispute in a major competition such as the European Championship has also had an impact on his evolution at Manchester City, where at this start of the season he has soared after having been close to leaving the club. “A lot of center-backs have high completion percentages, but a lot of them just play simple passes to each other. Last season’s progressive pass statistics by minutes played were the best for the City team. He can definitely give us a lot if he stays, ”said Pep Guardiola after a brilliant performance against Norwich City (5-0) in August. Questioned, along with Eric García, for his performance in the defeat against Olympique de Lyon (2-1) in the quarterfinals of the post-confinement Champions League in Lisbon, Laporte was relegated to the bench last year after the signings of Ruben Dias and Ake and the resurrection of John Stones. International analysts who have followed Laporte’s career from the beginning point out that he was always a player who stood out for his left-handedness, his good ball delivery and for his speed of movement despite his height (1.89 meters). These qualities put him in the crosshairs of some of the great European clubs. These same scouts point out that his signing for one of the powerful teams that followed him was not due to a very common tendency in the French centrals, that of playing with certain airs of sufficiency, which leads them to make tactical errors due to confusion or risk more than necessary with the ball.
After going through all the lower categories of the French team and having been summoned three times for the absolute by Didier Deschamps, although he did not make his debut, Laporte’s resignation to play for his country of origin and his recruitment by the federation Spanish responded to the confluence of sporting interests. Spain, which already in the time of Julen Lopetegui tried to incorporate him, needed a central of its characteristics. The entry into force in September 2020 of the new FIFA regulations on the change of players’ association made the transfer possible. The player, tired of waiting for Deschamps, came to the conviction that the doors to play the great national team competitions would open wide for him if he played for Spain. The decision upset Deschamps, who accused Laporte of maneuvering behind his back. Laporte defended that he sent him a message that was never answered by the French coach. Four months after his nationalization, the League of Nations final has put him in front of his home country and the dreaded French artillery.
The Hernández were also able to play for La Roja
On Thursday, in the semi-final against Belgium, the Hernández brothers, Lucas and Theo, played for the first time together for the French senior team. There has not been a similar case in the country since 1974, the last time forwards Revelli, Hervé and Patrick were lined up together. Born in Marseille, but raised in Spain and trained in the quarry of Atlético de Madrid, a club where his father Jean Francois played, at some point in their careers the path of the Hernández could be the same as that of Aymeric Laporte. Before the 2018 World Cup and also due to Deschamps’ reluctance to summon him, Lucas Hernández had started the procedures to play for the Spanish team. He even confessed in an interview that he felt identified with Spain and that he was waiting for the call from Julen Lopetegui. The excess of zeal of Fernando Hierro, then sports director of the federation, avoided a historic slip. A week before the request to nationalize the oldest of the Spanish Hernándezes was approved by the Council of Ministers, Hierro consulted FIFA.
The response was surprising for the sports director, for the federation and for the player’s environment. Neither the player’s agent, García-Quilón, nor some federative directors gave credit to the news that Hierro transmitted to them. Irritated and headed, a day later they still insisted that Lucas, despite having played a European Under-19 with France, could play for Spain. Only a letter from FIFA confirming that the change of association could not take place, and the very insistence of the former federation sports director not to put the player’s international future at risk, prevented the mistake. Soon, Lucas was summoned by Deschamps and was part of the team that was proclaimed world champion in Russia.
In Theo’s case there were also flirtations, although they never became as official as in his brother’s process. His resignation from playing in a U-20 World Cup with France increased the feeling that his intention was to play for Spain. As with his brother, Deschamps was slow to summon him for the absolute. So much so that the now Milan player threw a hint at the French coach through his social networks. It was in the last window of September when Deschamps finally dared to give him the alternative, but he did not coincide with his brother because he was injured.
This week, both appeared in the Clairefontaine press room and were questioned about the direct competition they would star in because Deschamps often uses Lucas as a left back. However, the French coach surprised with a defense of three centrals (Koundé, Varane, Lucas) and lined up Theo as the lane, who made France’s comeback against Belgium (2-3) with an accurate left foot in the last minute. / CW>
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