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Why does Aymeric Laporte play for Spain and not France?

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Born in Agen in southwestern France to French parents, Aymeric Laporte played 51 times for his native country’s youth teams from U-17 to U-21 level. Since 2021, however, he has earned 33 caps for Spain. The former Manchester City defender now comes up against his “home” nation in the semifinals of Euro 2024.

Why did Laporte never play for France?

It goes without saying that Laporte’s international career is a rather curious case. After moving to Athletic Club de Bilbao’s youth academy at the age of 16 in 2010, he had established himself as one of the best centre-backs in LaLiga by the time Euro 2016, played in France, came around.

However, French head coach Didier Deschamps, who had Raphaël Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Eliaquim Mangala, Laurent Koscielny and Adil Rami at his disposal, continually overlooked Laporte, to the point he publicly stated he would consider playing for Spain if not selected for the European Championship.

How does Laporte qualify to play for Spain?

Laporte is of Basque descent through his great-grandparents, which is why he was able to sign for Athletic Club, who famously have a Basque-only (including links) policy. But the defender’s family is French Basque rather than Spanish Basque, meaning he didn’t automatically qualify to play for Spain.

He wasn’t ultimately picked for Euro 2016, at which point he was still only 22, and in August that year began looking into the process of becoming a Spanish citizen as a result of his long-term residency in the country.

France call-ups but no caps

A month later, however, Deschamps called him up for two 2018 World Cup qualifiers, after which Laporte pledged his international future to France. But he didn’t play in either of those two matches and had to wait almost three years until August 2019 for his next call-up for two Euro 2020 qualifying Games, which he missed through injury.

Laporte’s change of heart and Spain career

Shortly before Euro 2020, played in 2021 because of the covid-19 pandemic, it was revealed that Laporte, frustrated by a lack of opportunities, had had a change of heart and been granted Spanish nationality, allowing him to take part in the tournament. By that stage, France arguably had even more strength in depth in central defence, meaning his chances of playing for Les Bleus appeared slimmer than ever.

Days after his change of nationality was confirmed by FIFA, he was included in the Spain squad for Euro 2020, making his debut in a pre-tournament friendly against Portugal on 4 June 2021.

In addition to starting four of Spain’s five matches at Euro 2024, he also played from the off in three of their four fixtures at the 2022 World Cup. He has scored one goal for his “new” country, in the 5-0 trashing of Slovakia in Euro 2020.

Why does Robin Le Normand play for Spain and not France?

Coincidentally, fellow Spain centre-back Robin Le Normand’s case is almost identical, with the France-born 27-year-old obtaining Spanish nationality in 2023 having moved to Real Sociedad in 2016.

Le Normand, who never played for France at any level, can’t play against the country of his birth in the Euro 2024 semifinals because of suspension. Real Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal is also banned.

Laporte and Le Normand have started together in central defence for Spain on a number occasions, including in the Games against Italy, Georgia and Germany in the current tournament.

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