Barcelona: The cryptic case of Samuel Umtiti

Samuel Umtiti of FC Barcelona. (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Samuel Umtiti of FC Barcelona. (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Back in 2016, Barcelona were in search of a successor to ageing Javier Mascherano. Marc Bartra and Jeremy Mathieu did not give assurances which saw the Blaugrana go in the market and sign Samuel Umtiti from Olympique Lyon for 25 million euros.

Within just one season, the 25 million euro investment looked like a highway robbery. Umtiti forged a solid partnership with Gerard Pique, acting as Aniketos and Alexiares, the two Olympian demigods of defence. Umtiti was a beast not letting anyone past him.

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In 2017-18, Umtiti further asserted himself as one of the best defenders in Europe, his market value skyrocketed and teams such as Manchester United saw their mouth water especially after knowing that the Frenchman had a release clause of only 60 million euros. Life was all roses for Barcelona and Umtiti.

Then coach Ernesto Valverde relied on Umtiti more than ever. However, in his second season at Barca, injury hurdled Umtiti’s progress at the club, missing a total of 12 games due to knee and muscle injury. Then came the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Umtiti and Raphael Varane were Didier Deschamps’ preferred centre back pairing. Umtiti’s knee problems persisted but played through the pain for Les Bleus.

Samuel Umtiti’s Barcelona career took a big turn in 2018

He made a deal with the devil, he won the FIFA World Cup with France but in return, he lost his fitness. From 2018 until now, Umtiti never seems to have recovered from his knee issues. Recurring knee injuries completely sabotaged his Barcelona career.

From 2018 to date, Umtiti has missed a staggering 63 games for the Blaugrana due to injuries out of which 53 absences have been due to knee related problems. The Frenchman has not registered more than 20 appearances in a single season since 2017-18. At first, Barcelona were hopeful of Umtiti reviving his career but now it just seems to be a lost cause.

Barcelona have ran out of patience with the Frenchman and want to offload him as soon as possible. Sadly, there aren’t many interested clubs for an injury prone player who is earning high wages. Barcelona had offered the former Lyon man a contract extension in 2018, raising his wages to 250,000 euros a week.

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Can Barcelona end its association with Samuel Umtiti?

Fast forward to 2021, Barcelona’s financial turmoil is getting worse with each passing day. The club had to let go of Lionel Messi as they would’ve failed to register him despite reaching an agreement. Furthermore, doubts are cast whether the Blaugrana would manage to register Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero in time or not?

The Catalans wanted to offload deadwood this summer and Umtiti was the one to be axed. The Frenchman, however, maintained his stance to stay at the club and fight for his place. The 27 year old has two years left on his deal and is happy with his contract.

Realistically, after the plethora of injuries and the available centre back options, Umtiti’s chances of finding himself in the starting lineup are extremely bleak. Pique, Ronald Araujo, Garcia, Oscar Mingueza and Clement Lenglet are likely to be above him in the pecking order.

The Frenchman was booed by Barca fans in the Joan Gamper Trophy game against Juventus. Even though a player doesn’t deserve this sort of reception, the anger of Barca fans is justified. Umtiti doesn’t want to leave the club even though his chances of playing regular football are close to nil, even if he does manage to stay fit.

There are sides like AS Monaco, Besiktas and OGC Nice who want to bring the Frenchman on loan but the 27 year old will only consider going to a club that regularly fights for titles, as per Football Espana. What started as a match made in heaven is now turning into an ugly affair between Umtiti and Barcelona.

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Will Samuel Umtiti leave Barcelona this summer?