Samuel Umtiti - The rock at the back for Barcelona
In just two seasons, Samuel Umtiti has cemented his place as the first choice centre-back for FC Barcelona alongside Gerard Pique and over experienced defenders like Javier Mascherano and Thomas Vermaelen.
Jumping ship to Barcelona in 2016 for a €25 million transfer, the French defender rapidly moved up the pecking order and made his debut in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Sevilla. At a young age of 23, Umtiti was instrumental in Luis Enrique's system at Barcelona, and under the new manager, Ernesto Valverde.
"He (Samuel Umtiti) has a lot of quality, he's young and he's arrived with a lot of enthusiasm" - Gerard Pique
The 2015-16 Lyon Best Player of the Season, voted by the fans, Umtiti made over 130 appearances for his boyhood club in France before moving to Spain. Already a familiar figure at the Camp Nou and a stand-out personality in the dressing room, Umtiti is one of the few Barcelona players certain of a place in the starting XI.
Consistent and dynamic for both his club and the national team, Umtiti won the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup with France and also reached the finals of the UEFA Euro 2016. The Frenchman would be hoping for a bigger title under his belt when France travel to Russia next year as one of the favourites to lift the title owing to their impressive squad depth.
"Samuel Umtiti is a world-class player." - Eric Abidal
A graduate from Menival F.C., Samuel Umtiti, and Gerard Pique, have arguably been the most reliable defensive duo since the days of Carles Puyol at the club.
Such is Umtiti's masterclass that Barcelona have only been beaten once in the league with the French defender in the line-up. Averaging a 93% pass accuracy according to Squawka in the 2016-2017 Spanish League, Umtiti made just one defensive error in all of Barcelona's league campaign.
Rated as the fifth best Barcelona player last season by the website and only behind the dangerous trio of M-S-N and German goalkeeper, Marc ter Stegen, Samuel Umtiti is known for his mindful presence in the game.
Strong in the air and solid with his tackling, Umtiti adds that necessary bit of physicality to Barcelona's game which modern day football demands. Barcelona are well-known for nurturing some of the most intelligent players and physicality isn't something prominent at the Nou Camp, but Umtiti's signing last summer provided a package of both, Intelligence and Physicality.
"FC Barcelona should invite me to the Champions League final for gifting them Samuel Umtiti." - Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas on selling Umtiti for a cheap price to Barcelona
Positioning is one of Umtiti's strongest suits, which is why he doesn't rely on last-gasp tackles. Umtiti's pressing is of great use to the Blaugrana who rely highly on a forward defensive line and offside traps.
Now a certain starter for the Azulgranas in the League and the Champions League, as unlikely it may seem, Umtiti has proved to be one of the most important players at the Camp Nou. The French defender didn't take long to adapt to the style and has properly moulded himself to fit best in the system.
"To be honest I am surprised by Umtiti's quick adaption." - Luis Enrique
Samuel Umtiti has so far been the perfect foil to Pique's style as the Spanish defender also relies on positioning over tackling like his French companion. Umtiti's positioning helps Barcelona kill off opposition attacks even before they happen. His distribution then helps the team to start a counter after the turnover.
Now a household name in Barcelona, Umtiti has certainly taken up the big role at Camp Nou with pride and has undoubtedly performed beyond expectations. A long career at Catalunya awaits the Frenchman who is keen to grab more silverware with Barcelona.