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When Samuel Umtiti arrived at Barcelona in 2016, he was viewed as the heir to Carles Puyol at centre-back and Gerard Piqué’s long-term partner.
The €25million fee paid to prise him from Lyon was a bargain, even in the pre-Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain world. The Frenchman was a dominant centre-back and more than competent at full-back.
At the time, it was a statement signing. The then-22-year-old topped the wishlist at every top European club. He immediately made himself part of the first-team at Camp Nou, appearing in more than 40 matches during his debut campaign in Spain.
He appeared in a similar number of matches during his second season (2017/18) and the future World Cup winner looked right at home in the Barcelona jersey. However, since the start of the 2018/19 campaign, Umtiti has made just 31 appearances in all competitions for Barça.
He’s been riddled with knee injuries over this period and the signing of compatriot Clément Lenglet has pushed Umtiti down the pecking order. Now, according to reports, he could be shown the exit door when the transfer window reopens.
Sport claim Manchester United are planning on making a serious attempt to bring the 26-year-old to Old Trafford. Arsenal also retain an interest in the two-time LaLiga winner, but the Gunners can’t compete with the Red Devils financially.
A fee believed to be in the region of €50million would be enough to secure his services even though manager Quique Setién is believed to be a fan of Umtiti. Los Culés need to raise funds in order to revamp their squad and their No.23 could be sacrificed.
Not long ago, a link to Umtiti would be cause for excitement. But not so much now. For starters, his injury record can’t be ignored. According to Transfermarkt, the OL academy graduate has missed 39 matches since the start of the last season through injury.
Furthermore, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer already has a left-sided centre-back. In fact, United spent a world-record fee to pry Harry Maguire away from Leicester City in the summer. He’s now the club captain. It’s highly unlikely he’d shift to the right to accommodate Umtiti.
That said, those at Old Trafford will have a plan in place if they're serious about signing Umtiti. If he's able to rediscover his form, he would be a shrewd signing. And the €50million fee could be the definition of value for money in the current market.
Umtiti is one of the best ball-playing centre-backs in Europe. Over the past two seasons, he's completed 94 per cent of the 71 passes he's attempting (per 90). He doesn't dither when in possession, either, taking just 81 touches. It means 88 per cent of his touches are actually passes. His pass accuracy is even more impressive when you consider more than a third go forward.
Accurate but progressive. He's something of a risk-taker while also managing to give off the impression he is anything but. It's the perfect combination for a centre-back.
He can also defend, which isn't a given with some players who occupy defensive births these days. Take David Luiz, for example. Defensively, he is a maverick but managers persist with him because of how good he is at having an impact on proceedings going forward.
Umtiti, however, isn't carried by his on-ball ability. As the graphic above shows, he's fairly dominant in the air, winning more than 60 per cent of his duels. He's also very adept when it comes to ground duels as well, winning 65 per cent.
On average, he's regaining possession 6.43 times per 90 with the majority of regains coming in the defensive third. But he's not shy about stepping up into midfield, with 2.97 of his ball recoveries in that area of the pitch.
There is a lot there to work with. And in terms of a profile, Umtiti ticks many of the boxes that teams want from a centre-back. If United can get a handle on his injury issues, the's one of the best defenders in Europe.
Someone of his ability and quality being available for less than £50million is unheard of. Even if he isn't an ideal fit, United should jump at the chance to add him to their squad.