Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte has denied reports he has agreed to join Manchester City this summer.
Laporte, who is also Barcelona's top defensive target, is currently sidelined with a serious leg injury. However, his future remains under the spotlight. According to Basque newspaper EITB, City have told Athletic they are ready to meet the defender's €50m (£39m, $57.4m) release clause in order to make him Pep Guardiola's first signing at the Etihad Stadium.
Dismayed with such suggestions, Laporte issued a statement via his Twitter account, writing: "Given the unfounded and inaccurate news appearing in the media today, my message to the fans of Athletic is very clear and simple.
"In my mind I have only the desire to be useful to the club and my teammates, to achieve the best goals this season and also recover well from my injury.
"Athletic will always be the first to know about anything that might happen in the future. My loyalty and deep respect for the club is full."
Marca has also claimed a deal will be struck this summer According to them, Guardiola himself has reportedly played a significant role in convincing the France Under-21 international to move to the Premier League side, where he will make him a key figure in his new project at the Etihad.
Laporte, who signed a new four-year contract at San Mames last year, suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle while on international duty with France Under-21s in March.
Either City or Barcelona will be expected to match the defender's release clause in full. Athletic have proven to be tough negotiators in the transfer market in recent years and have successfully prevented their former players from leaving for a penny less than their full release clause. Manchester United learned this when they were made to pay full price for Ander Herrera in the summer of 2014, while Bayern Munich were made to activate Javi Martinez's €40m buyout clause in 2012.
An agreement between Laporte and Manchester City would act as an early blow to Barcelona's summer plans. Barcelona's international advisor Ariedo Braida recently admitted the club's priority for the summer is to find a long-term partner for Gerard Pique in defence.