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Chelsea turn sights to Athletic Bilbao center back — report

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FC Barcelona v Athletic Club - La Liga Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

During the 2015 John Stones summer transfer window saga, a not inconsiderate portion of Chelsea fans advocated signing Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte instead. Now, we’re not saying that Chelsea should’ve listened to us, but they really should have. There’s a decent chance that Laporte would’ve worked out better than either Stones (who didn’t end up signing) or our Lord and Saviour Papy Djilobodji (who did).

But there’s still time to remedy that mistake. Laporte, now just two weeks shy of 23 years of age, is back in the Chelsea rumor mill thanks to report from ESPN, and could be an alternative big-money signing option to Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk. While Chelsea will have Andreas Christensen coming back from loan this summer, John Terry is leaving and most of the current defensive core is over 30 as well.

Manchester City had appeared favourites to acquire Laporte last summer, but the Basque defender decided to extend his contract with Athletic until 2020. This new contract has a release clause of €65 million, which increases to €70 million in the 2018-19 season.

ESPN claims that City and their manager Pep Guardiola remain interested on Laporte's services, but that Chelsea might have the edge in a potential race for his signature given the attractions of living in London and playing for the future Premier League winners of the 2016-17 season.

Laporte has been a full-fledged starter for Athletic that past four seasons, including this season’s campaign that has seen them battle for 6th in La Liga with local rivals Real Sociedad. Atheltic have the 4th-best defence in the league and that’s no coincidence.

Although his buyout might be just a bit steep for a non-homegrown defender, Laporte possesses great ball-playing skills combined with good strength and size and speed, and is left-footed. He could easily slot into our three-man backline.