What must Aymeric Laporte have thought as he watched Hugo Lloris lift the World Cup trophy?
The Man City defender has represented France at four different youth levels and could have easily been part of the 23-man squad who triumphed in Russia.
In late 2016, Didier Deschamps selected the ball-playing centre-back in his squad for Les Bleus’ qualifiers against Bulgaria and the Netherlands.
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As a result, Laporte decided not to apply for Spanish citizenship, despite Julen Lopetegui suggesting that he would be integrated into Spain’s plans for the 2018 World Cup.
Laporte did not feature in either of the qualifiers and is yet to play a second of senior international football for either France or Spain.
The situation is a strange one.
The second-most expensive defender in history is 24-years-old and has just contributed to the first ever 100-point league triumph on English soil.
In a not-too-dissimilar parallel universe, he has 50 international caps to his name already.
You’d think that France and Spain would be desperately fighting it out to secure Laporte’s services.
But neither seem that bothered.
Deschamps has been largely indifferent to the idea of recruiting Laporte.
The manager could have easily given him a few minutes in the qualifiers and ended the debate for good.
Many would rate Laporte above the likes of Adil Rami and Presnel Kimpembe — the two understudy centre-backs in France’s World Cup squad.
Deschamps however, clearly does not.
Lopetegui was keen on Laporte before the considerable distraction of Real Madrid.
New Spain boss Luis Enrique is hopeful of persuading the former Athletic Bilbao man to commit his future to Spain, though the choice is far from straight forward.
Laporte was born in southern France and is of Basque descent, hence how he qualified to play for the La Liga club.
He made his debut at 16-years-old and became the second French player to represent Athletic Bilbao after Bixente Lizarazu.
At the end of the day, Laporte is a proud Frenchman and would prefer to play for the country of his birth.
But would it be better for him to choose Spain?
France’s ‘Golden Generation’ have just won the World Cup — most players would be desperate to get involved.
However, in Raphael Varane (25) and Samuel Umtiti (24), France have a centre-back partnership that could last a decade.
If he were to choose France, there’s a chance Laporte could spend his international career warming the bench.
Just like France, Spain have a Real Madrid/Barcelona combination at the heart of their defence.
Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique are two of the most decorated centre-backs of their generation and both have over 100 caps for Spain.
However, both are now the wrong side of 30 and Enrique would be wise to look to the future.
Ramos will be 34-years-old at the next major international tournament — time waits for no man.
Laporte could well be a first-choice centre-back by the time Euro 2020 commences.
So while it may be tough to give up on France in the aftermath of their triumph, Laporte has to think about which option is best for him.
Does he go with his heart and risk playing first reserve to Varane and Umtiti for the next ten years?
Or does he go with his head and give up on his dream of representing his country of birth?
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