Aymeric Laporte made it to the Group E final with Spain without missing a beat in the heart of Luis Enrique’s defense but his overall World Cup aim was sketchy at best and that’s by his own admission.
The Manchester City defender, who has been partnered by club-mate Rodri at the heart of the Spanish defence, has indicated he is not paying attention to the tournament well beyond La Roja’s next match.
Former Athletic Bilbao star Laporte said he had “not even looked at” who Spain could expect in the round of 16 and had “no idea” the chances of who that might be.
It is perhaps an unusual attitude for a professional footballer, but Laporte seems to fall into the category of sportsmen who are extraordinarily skilled at what they do, but not naturally inclined to take their work home.
He told the Guardian: “I’m not a football fan. Honestly, I don’t like watching matches.”
The 28-year-old admits he’s not the best at keeping an eye on his team’s workload, not even at City.
“Honestly, when I play for City, I don’t even know what time kick-off is,” he said. “My family calls and says, hey, what time tomorrow? [I say] ‘I do not know.'”
However, Laporte did little harm on the pitch in Spain’s first games, a 7-0 win over Costa Rica and a 1-1 draw with Germany.
Going into Thursday’s match series, of all defenders who have played at least 90 minutes in this World Cup, Laporte had scored the most passes per 90 minutes (125.5 – 11.31 more than anyone else) and the most passes in their own half (89 – 18 more than the next player on the list).
He had had the third most touches per 90 minutes (132.5) among defenders, with only teammate Jordi Alba (136.23) and Germany’s Nico Schlotterbeck (132.58) having more.
It helps Spain play similarly to City, with his possession-based game befitting Laporte, and it can only help to have Rodri with him, even if for their club former Atletico Madrid are typically deployed at midfield.
Laporte had no doubts that Rodri would be ideal for defensive duties, and is coaching his friend during matches.
They had another job to do against Japan on Thursday, with Spain knowing a draw would be enough to secure passage.
“Rodri is smart, he knows how to adapt,” said Laporte. “It’s different for him. He asks for advice, he asks a lot of questions, it’s all very natural.
“We only let one in and we hope there are no more. Basically, I answer the questions he asks. Do I go out? When do we fall? Do I have to go with the attacker when he crashes into space? Do I hold? I follow? I go out with the ball ?
“He asks a lot of questions: being still, making decisions, with the ball, without it. And I try to help as best I can.”