Why returning to Lyon would be perfect for Samuel Umtiti
If you watched FC Barcelona's matches during the 2017/2018 campaign, you would have concluded that Samuel Umtiti was the missing piece the Blaugrana's defence needed for years. The Frenchman appeared a perfect fit for the team. He settled down seamlessly and made a home for himself in Ernesto Valverde's back-line.
Alongside Gerard Pique, Umtiti formed an impenetrable wall at the heart of Barca's defence. The Blaugrana conceded just 29 goals in La Liga that season. It was one of the best defensive records the club has managed within the past two decades. Fans couldn't help but compare him with the legendary Carles Puyol.
Not all good things last forever. Umtiti will be wishing that that paradise continued for him at Camp Nou. After claiming the La Liga title and the Copa Del Rey trophy with the team that year, the Frenchman's career set out on the downward trajectory.
The turning point arrived when the defender started feeling some discomfort in his left knee at the end of the 2017/2018 campaign. Determined to help his nation at the 2018 World Cup, he opted against surgery and decided to take pain-killers to participate in the tournament. That made matters worse.
Umtiti hasn't been the same since he returned to Barca following that tournament. He lost pace and form. The biggest problem is that the knee injury has been on a recurring run. He started just 14 games for Barca last season and could only complete 90 minutes 11 times.
Amidst the struggles, Valverde decided to give Clement Lenglet the nod to feature beside Pique at the centre of the defence last season. The former Sevilla superstar grabbed that opportunity with both hands. He has been a solid rock at the back, putting up decent displays since he was called upon.
Lenglet has displaced his colleague from the starting lineup and made that position his own. He has bagged 15 appearances for Barca this season. Umtiti has just four. As it stands, the ex-Sevilla man is currently the undisputed option among the duo and it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon.
Umtiti's future at Camp Nou looks bleak. Leaving could be the right option for him at this stage. The defender recently admitted that he could end up rejoining his former club, Olympique Lyon. For many reasons, a return to the Groupama Stadium would be beneficial to all the parties involved.
Starting with Barca, it would afford the Catalans the chance to offload an injury-struck player and take some load off their stacked wage bill. It would also raise some funds for the club and allow Jean-Clair Todibo to get more game time and continue his development.
Lyon, on the other hand, have been struggling at the back this season. They've conceded 20 goals from 19 games across all competitions so far and currently sit at the ninth position on the Ligue 1 table. Signing Umtiti could help to turn their season around. On his day, the Frenchman is a defender of the highest calibre. There's no doubting his ability; he can offer a lot to improve their leaky defence.
For Umtiti, his future at Barca doesn't look very promising. The move would afford him an escape route to leave his nightmare behind in Catalonia. The 26-year-old needs to find a place to kickstart his career. Lyon seems the ideal option for that.
At the Groupama Stadium, the Frenchman would get less pressure and adequate opportunity to turn his situation around. He would also be well received by the fans, having represented the club earlier in his career before leaving for Barca. Should the move end up happening, it would be a win-win situation for all the parties involved.Published 06 Dec 2019, 13:37 IST