Laporte dismisses 'political agenda' driving criticism of Spain call-up

By Sports Desk June 17, 2021

Aymeric Laporte has insisted he is paying little attention to the "political agenda" driving criticism of his surprise selection in the Spain squad for Euro 2020.

Born in Agen in the south of France, the defender represented Les Bleus' youth teams from U17s level all the way through to the U21s.

He was also twice called up by the senior national side but injury and a failure to convince manager Didier Deschamps of his worth meant he had not made an appearance by the age of 27.

However, an eight-year stint with Athletic Bilbao meant Laporte, whose great grandparents hailed from the Basque region, remained eligible for Spain, and Luis Enrique took advantage by including him in the squad for this summer's European Championship.

The Manchester City man performed impressively in his first competitive appearance for his new nation - a 0-0 draw with Sweden - winning all three of his aerial duels and completing more passes (115) than any other player on the pitch.

But the move continues to prove controversial in some quarters, with one Spanish journalist recently asking Laporte if he "[felt] Spanish enough to be able to defend the badge, the flag, the nation, the anthem".

Still, the player remains unperturbed by the debate surrounding his involvement and told AFP: "There is a bit of everything, like anywhere, there are a lot of people who are in favour but there are many who are also against.

"There is a political agenda behind all that and I can see that it's not easy for everyone to accept. I also understand those people. Everything is fine, for now.

"There will be worse times to come and also the opposite. I just try to make the most of the good moments and push the bad ones aside because otherwise I know it'll be a rollercoaster."

Laporte's inclusion was considered even more contentious given it came off the back of Spain and Real Madrid icon Sergio Ramos being excluded from the squad.

But he insisted the two decisions were not directly linked, and lavished praise upon his fellow centre-back.

"This is what the press wanted to blame me for a bit," he added. "The manager said he was injured so it has nothing to do with me. I'm also not the only centre-back in the squad so I don't think it's my fault.

"There's no extra pressure. I'm here to do my job, to fight for Spain in my own way.

"He is an icon in the world of football. I have watched him a lot since I was young. He is the benchmark.

"I love his character, not his aggressive side, the red cards and all that, but his resilience to make a mistake and still come back stronger, not to hide behind his reputation. He is always ready to stand up and be counted."

Spain have failed to score in two of their last three outings, having taken 51 international fixtures to produce two goalless games prior to that.

But Laporte is calm about a disappointing start to this summer's tournament, which he hopes to put right against Poland on Saturday.

"The results will say everything," he continued. "A lot of people think they know football but then the complete opposite to what they predict happens.

"We just try to do our job and I would even say so much the better if they think that we're not ready because it takes the pressure off. It motivates us even more."

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