Do FC Barcelona need Samuel Umtiti anymore?
Last season, Samuel Umtiti was arguably the best center-back in the world. Leading the Barcelona defense with fellow center-back Gerard Pique, Big Sam tore down attacks week after week, heavily contributing to their domestic double, and remaining nearly undefeated season last year. The Catalan side also had their best defensive season ever in the last season, conceding only 29 goals in their 38 games in LaLiga, and a mere 2 goals in the entirety of the Copa Del Rey. Without Umtiti, it is a certainty that this would not be the case.
The player also flourished at the FIFA World Cup, playing all 7 games in their campaign and was vital to France's World Cup win, recovering 32 balls and making 203 passes at a 92% passing success rate in the tournament. In addition to this, in a Carles Puyol-esque manner, he handed France a ticket to the World Cup final by scoring the winning header against Belgium. It is safe to say that, without Umtiti, France's chance of winning the World Cup last year would have been much lower.
However, his sublime performance for World Cup glory came with one caveat; he has invariably allowed for the progression of his recurring left knee ligament injury. Umtiti was on the sidelines for the majority of this season -- out for two months between September and November, and getting re-injured on his returning game against Atletico Madrid on the 24th of November. Following his re-injury, Umtiti went to Qatar and had a conservative treatment, which was against the advice of Blaugrana medical staff as they had wanted him to have a knee surgery which would sideline him for five months.
Umtiti has since returned to training in March, but he has been used sparingly since then, to prevent re-injury, but more pertinently, because of the emergence of Clement Lenglet.
This season, Lenglet has been incredible, being vital to the club's success in LaLiga; in his 45 appearances for the Blaugrana this season, he has performed mostly without fault, averaging over 2 tackles and 3 interceptions per game which are outstanding statistics for a defender. It can be argued that the center-back has performed in the left-center back position better than Umtiti currently could, a thought that would have been crazy this time last year.
Lenglet's success this season has meant that Big Sam would need to stay on the sidelines in Barcelona's important fixtures, and seeing that Samuel Umtiti's form is nowhere near as good as it used to be, during and before the World Cup, this is not likely to change, given present circumstances.
Other than Lenglet and Pique, the current starters for the Catalan club, there is another player on the rise at the club -- Jean-Clair Todibo. A 19-year-old French centerback, Todibo is an incredible talent with immense raw potential, with a rare balance of pace and physical, as well as top-notch distribution skills on the field.
With four other center-backs (including Jeison Murillo) already in the Barcelona squad, it may be needless to keep Samuel Umtiti at this point.
Another factor to consider in Umtiti's future at the club is the potential new signing of another young talent, Matthijs de Ligt. Unlike Todibo, De Ligt is already a proven player, having become Ajax's youngest ever captain, at the tender age of just 19. The Netherlands international is already one of the best center-backs in the world, with unmatchable strength, speed, and tactical ability.
Because of this, Barcelona are trying not to miss out on an opportunity to purchase such a rare talent. De Ligt also demands astronomical wages, which would further dismantle the Spanish champions' wage structure.
As a result, Umtiti may be allowed to go, due to his high wages himself, of about £75,000 a week. Additionally, with De Ligt's arrival, the question arises whether Umtiti would still have a place in the squad, with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet's roles as first choice center-backs, Jean-Clair Todibo's role as the young, raw talent, and Matthijs de Ligt's potential role as the successor to Pique's position in the right center-back position.
This becomes more likely with the Catalan club's likely summer transfer overhaul, after its repeated blunder in the UEFA Champions League. However, Barcelona should consider the fact that Umtiti is still only 25 years old, and that this may just be a temporary dip in form, with his best years ahead of him due to his young age.
Wherever Samuel Umtiti ends up though, the fact stands that he was, and still may be one of the best center-backs in the world, and any club would gladly accept him in their squad.
What do you think FC Barcelona should do with Samuel Umtiti? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.