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Aymeric Laporte still Manchester City's top defensive target - source

Athletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte remains Manchester City's top defensive target this summer despite his injury setback, a source close to the club has told ESPN FC.

Laporte, 21, suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle while playing for the France under-21 team in March and not expected to make a full recovery until August, but City are prepared to push through a deal for the highly rated centre-back.

Laporte signed a new contract with Athletic last summer that ties him to the club until 2019 but the deal contains a €50 million buyout clause. City may have to activate it to bring him to the Etihad.

Incoming boss Pep Guardiola has been linked with Laporte for some time as he looks to refresh the squad after a disappointing season that saw Manuel Pellegrini's side finish fourth, 15 points behind champions Leicester City.

City's defence is in need of an overhaul with Martin Demichelis leaving the club this summer, while captain Vincent Kompany has been troubled by persistent injury problems that forced him to miss 37 of City's 59 games this season.

Aymeric Laporte was injured while on international duty with the France under-21 side.

Fellow defenders Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi have also struggled for form with City conceding more goals than any other side in the top five of the Premier League.

Everton and England's John Stones has also been linked with a move to City while Belgium international Jason Denayer, who is on loan at Galatasaray, could come back into Guardiola's first-team squad.

Reports in Spain earlier this month claimed City had already activated Laporte's release clause, but the defender denied the claims on Twitter.

However, he failed to clarify whether he planned to stay at San Mames next season, saying: "I can only say I appreciate all that Athletic have given me, and they will be the first to know anything which might happen in the future. I have complete loyalty and profound respect for this club. And of course, I will always be straight with this club and its fans."

Athletic teammate Mikel San Jose has since said he is "confident" Laporte will stay at San Mames.

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.


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