Milan, Oct. 10 (BUS): The grand finale of what was once a final tournament in the Nations League fourth final will be an unforgettable occasion for the players of France and Spain, but it will be especially special for Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte.
Laporte played more than 50 matches for the French youth teams, and captained the French national under-17, under-18, under-19 and under-21 national team. Then he was called up to three big teams, but did not appear under coach Didier Deschamps.
The solution to his lack of international action was drastic to say the least, but after he became a Spanish citizen in May, the switch of allegiance has paid off, Reuters reports.
The 27-year-old Manchester City defender is set to be the 12th international for the Manchester City defender in that short time against the country of his birth on Sunday in Milan as Spain looks to win the Nations League – an event for which he is more than prepared.
“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,” Laporte told Spain’s official Twitter account.
“I will do my best. I will face my former teammates (from the French youth teams) but the only thing I think about is winning this final, that is the most important thing for me now.”
The central defender grew up in southwest France but moved to Spain in 2010 to join Athletic Bilbao’s youth academy.
Deschamps said on Saturday he had not spoken to Laporte since he made the decision to switch allegiances.
“I never spoke to him again,” Deschamps said. “He had this opportunity and I’m happy for him. He was with us and now he’s with them, that’s his choice and I respect him.”
“This was the route he wanted to take and I hope it goes well for him, even if our paths cross tomorrow,” he added.
The decision to switch country, which players can do as long as they have played no more than three matches for that country before the age of 21 and have not played in a World Cup or continental tournament, was not clear.
In 2016, Laporte said, while on international duty with France, he had the opportunity to become a Spanish national but chose to stay with the French national team in pursuit of his first international match.
A full international arc remained elusive despite Laporte’s injury when he was named in France’s squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Albania and Andorra, before sparking the interest of Spain coach Luis Enrique.
“Once Aymeric was able to play for us he started making a huge contribution,” Luis Enrique said in July. “He is a great player in both the offensive and defensive phases.
“He is an excellent defender and we are all happy that he decided to play for Spain.”
The relationship with Deschamps was not entirely positive, with both sides accusing each other of lying about whether Laporte had sent a letter to the France coach informing him of the switch of loyalty.
That is all under the bridge now, with Laporte, who has reclaimed his place in the City ranks this season with a string of impressive performances, and is a key part of an exciting young Spanish team.
Spain shocked many by ending Italy’s world record 37 games unbeaten en route to the Nations League final, and after falling in the semi-finals to the Italians at Euro 2020, Laporte is looking to move forward this time around.
“It was very important that we take our revenge on Italy after what happened in the European Championship,” he added. “The victory over Italy gives us the confidence to come home with a gold medal around our neck.”