Aymeric Laporte is the long-term solution to Barcelona's defensive struggle

Aymeric Laporte could become a Barcelona player as early as next summer. If reports in the press are to be believed, the Catalan giants already have a deal in place for the young defender and are ready to pay Athletic Bilbao the player’s €40 million release clause to bring him to the Camp Nou.

At 21, Laporte has already caught the eye of Europe’s biggest clubs. Ever since he made his top flight debut for Los Leones in 2012, Laporte has been linked with virtually every major club in the continent. A product of French lower tier club Aviron Bayonnais, famous for producing another famous defensive-minded player, Didier Deschamps, Laporte has all the tools to tread Deschamps’ glory-strewn path, albeit with a different club.

Getting Laporte from under the noses of the wealthier clubs from England will be a major coup for Barca. The young centre-back, who can also play on the left side of defence, can provide a long-term solution to the Blaugrana back line, which has been in a state of flux ever since the retirement of the legendary Carles Puyol last year.

Short-term fixes like Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu are either too injury-prone to be consistently relied upon or on the wrong side of age. Talented youngsters coming through from La Masia have been in short supply in recent years; the presence of Marc Bartra on the fringes for half a decade is proof of that.

Javier Mascherano, a midfielder, has often been preferred ahead of Bartra in defence — a pointer to the frequent transitions of the Barcelona defence, and why searching for a solution from within may not be the best option available. Gerard Pique’s fluctuations of form are widely-known, and while he might never find another partner of Puyol’s ilk, a little consistency and more familiarity will go a long way in solving the defensive puzzle.

Barcelona, this season, have played five different centre-back combinations and Vermaelen, Mathieu, Bartra, Mascherano and Pique have all had minutes at the centre of defence. That makes it obvious how manager Luis Enrique hasn’t struck gold in finding a solid, consistent centre-back partnership. Of course, injuries and suspensions haven’t helped his cause.

In Laporte, Barca will get themselves a solid defensive partner for Pique at the heart of defence. Going by his stats in the league this season, the Frenchman has averaged more tackles per game than Pique, Vermaelen and Mathieu. He has also averaged more interceptions per game than any of the Barca central defenders. Undoubtedly, Laporte is growing into a world-class central defender that Barca would love to have in their ranks.

Laporte is young but experienced enough, already closing in on 100 appearances for Athletic. His attributes as a ball-playing defender will sit well with the demands at Barca. At 189 centimetres, Laporte stands just four centimetres short of Pique, and his exceptional recovery pace is an asset that Pique has clearly been lacking of late. The designs of a solid defensive pair are there, only thing that remains is whether or not he arrives at the Nou Camp next summer.

Laporte would fit Barca’s defensive needs perfectly. This season, the Catalans have conceded the most goals of the league’s top nine teams. Defensive solidity, which is the basic characteristic of any great footballing team, is currently missing at the club.

Signing Laporte will be considered a win for Barca over the likes of Manchester United, but more importantly, it will provide the club with a solid defensive base in the medium to long term to sustain their glory days.

By Abhijit Bharali, columnist at Barcablog. Follow him on Twitter here 

Should Barcelona invest €40 million on Laporte? Who would you sign instead?