BILBAO, Spain — Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte watched from the stands as his side drew 1-1 at home with Eibar in the Basque country derby on Friday.
The 23-year-old Frenchman has been closely linked with a move to Premier League leader Manchester City, with media reports in Spain and England equally confident coach Pep Guardiola’s City will pay his buyout clause of 65 million euros (US$ 81 million).
“Let’s see if the rumor that is so widespread is confirmed,” Bilbao coach Jose Angel Ziganda said elusively after the match.
Ziganda had originally included Laporte on his squad, but instead the player sat with fans at San Mames Stadium. After the game, Ziganda did not mention transfer speculation, either, when asked why he left Laporte out.
“I spoke to him before the match and I didn’t see him in the best condition to play,” Ziganda said. “He hadn’t rested well and hadn’t slept well after a busy week, so I told him he wasn’t going to play.”
Aritz Aduriz was left unmarked and headed in Inaki Williams’ cross to give Bilbao the lead in the 50th minute. But fellow striker Enrique “Kike” Garcia equalized for Eibar in the 73rd.
Eibar moved into seventh place, while Bilbao is two points behind its Basque rival in 10th. Although Bilbao is unbeaten in 10 league matches, seven have been draws.