Aymeric Laporte slyly slipping off the face of the earth to play his football in Saudi Arabia was surprising and disheartening in equal measures – until now.
When Manchester City parted with a club record £57million to prize him away from Athletic Club in 2018, the world of football was in agreement that they’d probably just underpaid for perhaps the most promising – and already talented – young centre-back in the game.
Leaving six years later as a treble winner with six Premier League titles, a Champions League and countless other accolades to his name, suggesting that he flopped in Manchester would be unfair.
Regardless of what esteem we all held him in, he’s achieved more in six years than I will in the next 60. That is, of course, unless you consider the weakest ankles in all of five-a-side in the North West to be some kind of extraordinary achievement.
Nobody can deny the fact that the French-born Spain international (still weird, isn’t it?) didn’t achieve the lot and make the most of his time at City. He quite literally did exactly that.
But his departure in the summer of 2023 still felt too soon. It still felt like – despite all the honours – Laporte’s story at the top of European football wasn’t finished.
Don’t tell Cody Rhodes that – he’ll be coming to finish it for him.
Leaving City to sign for Al Nassr at 29, Laporte turned his back on the very pinnacle of the game we love before he’d even reached his peak and did so with many feeling like they still haven’t seen him at his very best.
Injuries, inconsistency and Pep Guardiola’s batsh*t crazy rotation policy meant that he found regular football hard to come by – particularly towards the end – but does that mean he was overrated? Far from it.
It’s for that reason that his move to the Middle East and subsequent heel turn felt so sour. Laporte still has so much to give.
But what if he was right all along?
Instead of wasting his time in a European footballing calendar literally bursting at the seams, Laporte decided to take all the unnecessary pressure off his shoulders, get away from the limelight and win the one award that evaded him – the Puskas Award.
Given out annually to what FIFA decide is the most beautiful goal scored in the world during the calendar year, we think Laporte might just have sealed it for 2024 – and we’re only one month into the year.
Aymeric Laporte with a once in a lifetime goal for Al-Nassr. 🤯🤯🤯 pic.twitter.com/xZfbE3DF5i
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) February 1, 2024
Seriously, how on earth do you beat that? The clocks haven’t even gone forward yet, Aymeric. Let us all breathe.
While we’re all still in search of our first goal under the bright lights of the Powerleague cages of the calendar year, the 29-year-old has produced the babyface turn of the century by scoring from deep in his own half.
The very epitome of ‘f*ck it, he’s off his line’, we’re genuinely not sure we’ve ever seen a better example of the hopeful punt.
It’s a tactic tried to no end on Sunday mornings across the world, but very few pull it off and for good reason. It’s nigh-on impossible.
On an evening where the definition of immortal watched from the sidelines for Inter Miami, all eyes on him and his inevitable wizardry, Lionel Messi was made to look like the most ordinary man alive by a forgotten defender and his desire to prove us all wrong.
Aymeric, we salute you, your turbocharged left peg and your unrelenting desire to win the Puskas Award one month into the year.
For our money, we think you’ve done exactly that.
By Mitch Wilks