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Laporte: Saudi players face prejudice at Euros

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Published in Soccer
Saturday, 22 June 2024 07:11

Spain defender Aymeric Laporte has said there is a prejudice against players from the Saudi Pro League playing at Euro 2024, pointing out that Al Ittihad midfielder N'Golo Kanté has been Player of the Match in both of France's games so far.

Laporte swapped Manchester City for Al Nassr last year and his place in the Spain squad before the tournament was subject to debate and speculation due to that decision.

He is one of several players from the Saudi league featuring in Germany this summer, along with Kanté, Portugal duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Rúben Neves and Romania's Nicolae Stanciu, who scored a stunning goal in his country's 3-0 win over Ukraine, among others.

"It's a fact," Laporte said in a news conference when asked if players who are now playing in Saudi Arabia are viewed differently.

"People have prejudices towards the league. We are all aware that is quite a 'recent league,' in inverted commas, but people from Europe are going there more all the time.

"On a marketing level, it is evolving little by little and maybe in the future it will be seen as a much more competitive league than it is right now.

"But I also have to say that the Player of the Match for France has been Kanté two times in a row, which shows something I think. Every league has its level. The rhythm is similar [to the Euros], or at least that's what I perceive."

Speaking earlier this year, Laporte had said many players that joined the Saudi Pro League were "dissatisfied," citing working conditions and broken promises.

Asked on Saturday if he plans to stay in the Middle East, he added: "I signed a three-year contract, I can't say much more."

Laporte also rallied against "misinformation" in the media about his form in Saudi Arabia and his fitness. He missed Spain's opening game against Croatia as he was not 100% ready to play, but he played 90 minutes in Thursday's 1-0 win over Italy as La Roja sealed their passage into the round of 16.

"There has been a lot of speculation when there's not enough information out there for so many opinions on my form," he said. "It happens in football. There is a lot of bad information that generates more headlines than necessary.

"My top concern is the national team and being at my best. A lot has annoyed me, but one day in bed I took a deep breath and I thought: 'Am I doing things so badly to be criticised?'

"I realised I am doing everything I can for things to go well and I understood that it was not something specifically against me, but the personal interests that each person has.

"The national team is the most important part of my sporting career and where I have enjoyed myself the most during the last eight years. It is an honour to represent Spain. Every time I wear the shirt, I feel proud."

Spain close Group B against Albania in Dusseldorf on Monday, with Laporte saying the wins against Croatia and Italy prove they can go all the way.

"We have faced two strong teams in two difficult games, but we have shown that we know how to play those matches," he added. "We are ready to win a competition like this one."

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