There is no point in beating around the bush: what Manchester City fans want to know about Aymeric Laporte’s move to Al Nassr is why he did not secure himself a move to a top European club, or at least get an offer from some of the Premier League’s more upwardly mobile sides.

The truth is that there was some interest and there were some offers, but none were especially convincing as far as Laporte was concerned. What was convincing was a contract offer worth around £21million (€25m, $27.2m) per year from the Saudi Pro League side, which translates to just over £400,000 per week. That was what proved decisive, especially as it is tax-free.

Dear Cityzens, today I wanted to share a story with you…

It has lasted for five and a half unforgettable years. Plenty of memories that I will keep forever close to my heart.

— Aymeric Laporte (@Laporte) August 23, 2023

Arsenal considered a move for Laporte earlier in the summer but decided to sign Jurrien Timber from Ajax instead. Aston Villa showed some interest as their move for Villarreal’s Pau Torres was held up, but nothing concrete materialised as the Torres deal eventually went through.

Laporte, 29, had hoped for a move to a bigger club and his dream would have been either Barcelona or Real Madrid, but they were not ready to make a move.

Athletic Bilbao, his former club, were hopeful of a deal, but their financial offer was worth less than what he earned at City and it was also regarded as a backwards step considering he had left them to move to Manchester in 2018.

So he could have stayed in Europe, even the Premier League, had he wanted to, but nothing appealed sufficiently.

Laporte has been a brilliant player for City over the years: he settled in immediately upon joining the club midway through their 100-point season — training on the day he signed and making his debut the night after — and after helping the club win back-to-back titles, a knee injury in August 2019 disrupted City’s entire season, such was his standing as the club’s best centre-back.


Laporte with the 2021 Premier League trophy (Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)

He was also important to their title win in 2022, playing through a knee injury when most of the club’s defenders were on the sidelines and Liverpool were ready to pounce on any slip-ups.

It is staggering to believe more clubs did not show a serious interest in a clearly top defender, especially considering the premium attached to left-sided centre-backs in the current market, which contributed to City paying £76.8million for Josko Gvardiol this summer.


There had even been rumours throughout the summer that teams as varied as Juventus and Crystal Palace felt his asking price of around £25million was too high, which seemed insulting given he has hardly experienced a fall from grace and, at 29, is not especially old.

Surely other clubs would come forward? What about Tottenham Hotspur? He was offered to them two years ago as part of City’s attempt to sign Harry Kane after Laporte had lost his place in the team and wanted out. He was not especially keen at the time and this summer, Spurs wanted a faster and younger option and spent £42.7million on Wolfsburg’s Micky van de Ven.

Surely Chelsea, though? Well, there is some method within their madness and they are generally looking at players 23 or under who will accept relatively low salaries to offset the large transfer fees, ruling out Laporte.

And so he leaves European football for the Saudi Arabian league at a fee £1.5m shy of that £25m figure. The lack of serious interest, or at least interest that tempted Laporte, backed City into a corner because the football world knew they were keen to sell. City have sold well in recent years, particularly when it comes to academy players, but to get £23.5m for Laporte looks like bad business and is similar to the Barcelona loan deal required to shift on Joao Cancelo.

Although the Saudi Pro League clubs are throwing around eye-watering salaries, they are picking their targets well and have got a great deal for a player who will contribute a lot.

It is tempting, in a way, to feel sorry for Laporte, in the sense that the common feeling towards players moving to Saudi Arabia is that they are either past it or giving up on their careers, or both. He would not look out of place at a Champions League contender, but Laporte will be understandably happy with his new pay packet and it is easy to imagine that within two years — if he is still there — that Al Nassr will have a team of players that would not look out of place in the Champions League anyway. If he chooses to leave at that point, maybe a return to Athletic Bilbao would be more appealing.

As a player, he fits Guardiola’s system like a glove and, in fact, City had tried to sign him in the summer of 2016, the Catalan manager’s first transfer window at the club. He U-turned the move at the last minute, hugely frustrating sporting director Txiki Begiristain, but he remained so well-suited to City that they went back for him 18 months later and even renegotiated his terms on the flight to Manchester after his then representation upped their demands.

Up until that knee injury at the start of the 2019-20 season, he had established himself as City’s best and most reliable defender and a great deal of the club’s slight drop in form that season — at a time when Liverpool ran away with the title — was attributed to his absence.

City signed Ruben Dias the following summer, in 2020, and John Stones then enjoyed a stunning resurgence that saw him go from the brink of leaving the club to a key member of the team that reached the 2021 Champions League final. Laporte did not like losing his place in the squad and had asked to leave that January, leading the club to set an asking price of £60million.

Much like this summer, Laporte found suitors hard to come by and like several other players who were unsettled at the time, such as Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez, he stayed and made a huge contribution in 2021-22, actually usurping Stones once again.

With Dias, Nathan Ake and Kyle Walker injured and the departing Fernandinho already drafted in to cover one centre-back position, Laporte started the final game of that season, the dramatic 3-2 victory against Aston Villa, despite picking up a muscle injury in the final moments of a Champions League game at Real Madrid and a knee injury at Wolves two games before the finale.

That effort forced him to have surgery as soon as the season finished and, ultimately, he never won his place back last season, making his first start four games before the World Cup break. After Qatar, he was still unable to get back into the side, even as Guardiola constantly tried to find players in good form and good condition. Then some poor defending that led to a late equaliser for Nottingham Forest in February saw him benched at a time when City’s season finally kicked off, with four centre-backs forming the foundation of their treble. Just not Laporte.

He may not be quite as solid a defender as Stones, Dias, Ake and Manuel Akanji have proven to be, but that is a high bar and his time at City has hardly been strewn with errors. On the ball, he is one of the best around — The Athletic created this graphic earlier in the summer to highlight Gvardiol’s ability, but look at Laporte all the way over on the right thanks to his impressive figures for dribbling and passing.

His departure is far from the end of the world for City — they had started to move on without him and have signed Gvardiol anyway — but none of that should mean he leaves European football. City simply found four players in incredible form, so much so that even Walker lost his place for a time, which almost persuaded him to leave the club for Bayern Munich.

That kind of move would have felt fitting for Laporte. Instead, he moves to a developing league that promises to get stronger for a wage that would tempt many players.

He broke down in tears on the pitch after lifting the Premier League trophy in May, overcome by the sheer amount of good memories he had created during his four and a half years at the Etihad Stadium. On Monday, before flying to Saudi Arabia to complete his move, he was in tears again as he posed for pictures with all of the trophies he has won at City.

There are certainly enough memories and successes to ensure he is remembered fondly within the club and by its supporters.

Others should not be fooled by his move to the Middle East, as he remains an excellent player and those who overlooked him have missed out on a bargain. That said, he knocked back a few clubs by choice and will earn more than double his City salary at Al Nassr, so he hardly goes kicking and screaming.

(Top photo: Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)