Guardiola says up to 'incredible' Laporte to win France call

Aymeric Laporte has yet to be capped by his country, and was left out of Didier Deschamps' latest squad when it was announced on Thursday. — Reuters pic
Aymeric Laporte has yet to be capped by his country, and was left out of Didier Deschamps' latest squad when it was announced on Thursday. — Reuters pic

MANCHESTER, March 16 ― Pep Guardiola says it is up to Aymeric Laporte to force his way into the France squad, even though he described the defender's club form this season as “incredible”.

The Manchester City centre-back has yet to be capped by his country, and was left out of Didier Deschamps' latest squad when it was announced on Thursday.

Deschamps, whose side play European Championship qualifiers against Moldova and Iceland later this month, was reported in L'Equipe last November as having concerns about Laporte's ability to get on with the rest of the France squad.

For his part, the 24-year-old said in an interview in December that he believed Deschamps has a personal issue with him.

Guardiola declined to question Deschamps' decision to ignore Laporte, who has been called up for a France squad just once, without playing for the team.

The City manager, though, made clear that he had no issues with the defender's performances this season.

Guardiola said: “No. I cannot comment, because I have to respect the decision of the French national manager. He takes his own decisions, so I cannot be involved with that.

“All I can say is what Laporte has done is incredible, incredible both defensively and offensively, at set-pieces and so on. We are delighted with his performances this season with us.”

Laporte, signed by City for £57 million (RM309 million) from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018, has established himself as a first-choice centre-back at the Etihad Stadium, while also scoring four goals this season.

His omission from the France squad means he will get a short rest during the international break, which follows today's FA Cup quarter-final at Championship side Swansea.

“I'm pretty sure Aymeric would like to go with the national team but that depends on him,” Guardiola added. “Now he can get a rest then, after that, he will train again.”

Mendy comeback?

The City manager has indicated that French defender Benjamin Mendy could be in contention to make his comeback in the first match after the international break, away to Fulham on March 30.

Mendy has played just 27 minutes of football since having surgery on his left knee in November but is back in training.

“Hopefully after the international break, he'll be fit,” said Guardiola. “But not this weekend.”

The City manager will also be without the injured John Stones, Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne for the trip to Swansea.

Centre-back Stones was named among the substitutes on Tuesday as City thrashed Schalke 7-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but is carrying a groin injury, according to his manager.

Guardiola has made clear that he does not believe Stones, who has been called into the England squad for this month's European Championship qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro, is fit enough to report for international duty.

The City manager hopes to have Stones, De Bruyne and Fernandinho back after the international break as he chases a clean sweep of four trophies.

Guardiola acknowledged that his chances of being judged a success in England will depend on whether he can win the Champions League.

He won the trophy twice in four seasons at Barcelona but did not manage to get beyond the semi-finals during his three seasons with Bayern Munich and has yet to progress past the last eight at City.

“I was judged in Munich in that way so I will be judged here as well,” Guardiola said. “My period in Munich was not good for most people because we didn't get one final.

“We got to the semi-finals but we didn't get to a final and we were judged. My standards are high. I have to reach it.” ― AFP