Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has this afternoon spoken out over the future of Samuel Umtiti, amid mounting claims that the Frenchman could be on the move this summer.
Umtiti, a 25-year-old central defender, made the move to the Camp Nou from Lyon in the summer of 2016 for a fee of 25 million Euro.
The powerful stopper arrived in Catalunya with hefty expectations on his young shoulders, with Barca having long been on the lookout for a dependable central-defensive partner for Gerard Pique.
However, he was regularly singled out for criticism during his debut campaign with the club, as Luis Enrique’s men struggled defensively, particularly in Europe.
Umtiti proves worth
Last season saw Umtiti begin to prove just why he was so highly-regarded in France, though, with the Lyon youth product having strung together a number of absolutely dominant performances at the back for Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Umtiti proved a key factor in Barca conceding just four goals in their opening eleven La Liga fixtures to start the campaign, allowing the club to open up, and maintain a massive lead over fierce rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish top-flight table.
And the stopper went on to carry his stellar form into the summer, where he formed a dominant partnership alongside Raphael Varane at the heart of France’s back-4, to eventually lead his country to World Cup glory.
Umtiti’s injury woes
The current campaign, however, has proved a very different story for Umtiti.
The 25-year-old has been forced to deal with a lingering problem with his left knee.
After being sidelined at the end of September, the original diagnosis of Umtiti’s injury had seen his timetable for a return to action set at around a month.
However, this subsequently proved hugely-inaccurate.
In fact, between September and the beginning of last month, the powerful stopper managed just a solitary appearance in Barcelona’s colours.
As such, despite Umtiti having since returned to play the full 90 minutes in 2 of the Blaugrana’s last 3 league outings, surprise rumours have emerged over recent weeks, suggesting that the Frenchman could be on the move come the summer.
The fine debut campaign being enjoyed by Clement Lenglet, coupled with Barca’s long-standing interest in Matthijs de Ligt, have led to claims that, for the right price, the board at the Camp Nou would be open to parting ways with Umtiti.
And such reports have since seen Premier League outfit Arsenal named as the 25-year-old’s leading suitors.
In fact, Nicolo Schira of the Gazzetta dello Sport last month went as far as to claim that negotiations have been opened between the Gunners and Barcelona:
— Nicolò Schira (@NicoSchira) March 28, 2019
‘No Umtiti issue’
As such, Blaugrana president Josep Maria Bartomeu was last night questioned on the rumours surrounding Umtiti’s future.
The Spanish patron, though, was quick to shut down the suggestions that the stopper could be on the move come the summer.
Speaking in an interview with RTVE, Bartomeu explained:
‘He renewed him before the World Cup. He has four years left on his contract and there is no Umtiti issue.’
‘Now he has to recover from his injury as we want to have him in the best form possible.’
‘Having Umtiti and Lenglet on the left [side of central defence] is a guarantee and I would like him to continue.’