LONDON - Pep Guardiola will take his spending at Manchester City beyond £450million on Tuesday with the arrival of Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao for a club-record fee.
A City delegation were in Spain on Monday at lunchtime to pay the central defender’s £57m release clause, with Laporte due in Manchester last night ahead of his official unveiling.
The 23-year-old, uncapped by France, will become second only to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk as the most expensive defender in history. Laporte’s fee eclipses the club record £55m City paid to Wolfsburg for Kevin De Bruyne in 2015.
Guardiola — who has now splurged £190m on defenders alone in the last two transfer windows - identified Laporte in 2016. That move broke down after the player had doubts about how many opportunities he would get.
City’s interest had therefore cooled before they circled back to the former France Under 19 captain amid complications with other targets.
Laporte had his medical over the weekend, having been left out of Friday’s draw with Eibar. He said farewell to team-mates on Saturday and now faces competition with Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones for a spot in Guardiola’s back line.
Laporte issued a statement, saying: "I want to thank the Athletic family for everything you have given me.
"I arrived as a teenager and here I grew up as a person and as a footballer. My farewell, ahead of a new challenge in my professional career… I don’t want it to be a goodbye, but a see you soon.
"Here I leave a unique club, different and I will never forget you."
Guardiola would ideally like another player in before Wednesday's transfer deadline, although City now face a race against time.
Talks have been ongoing over Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred, with the midfielder keen for a switch to the Etihad Stadium. Like Laporte, Fred can play at left back. A deal for the Brazil international — interest was revealed by Sportsmail last month — is at an advanced stage.
The fact that Shakhtar are on a warm-weather training camp in Dubai will not represent a problem should Guardiola be given the green light.
Central midfield is another area Guardiola wants to strengthen, given the workload being placed on De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho. Ilkay Gundogan has proved an able deputy but there has been no place for Yaya Toure in three of the last seven matchday squads.