Two years is a very long time in football. In the summer of 2018, Samuel Umtiti was renowned as one of the best centre-backs playing the game.
The French defender had just led his national team to World Cup glory, scoring the only goal in the semi-final victory over Belgium, and providing a solid base to one of the most defensively disciplined winners of the trophy in recent history.
Since that moment, little has gone right for the now 26-year-old. He has since admitted that he put his body through incredible strain to participate in that international tournament, and he has subsequently paid the price for his commitment, struggling to maintain his fitness levels for the last two years.
Umtiti also lost his place in the Barça side to fellow Frenchman Clement Lenglet, and with Catalonia’s favourite son Gerard Pique completing the centre-back partnership, there seems little hope of the World Cup winner breaking back into the first team.
His latest injury setback, which forced him to miss the remainder of the season, caused him to take to Instagram to write: “I wish I could go back to the past. Not to change things, but to relive the times when I was happy and didn’t know it.”
So clearly, a change is needed for the glum Frenchman. Luckily for him, he still draws plenty of potential suitors, and particularly within the Premier League. Despite his struggles over the past two seasons, Umtiti still holds plenty of credit in the bank, so much so that Premier League duo West Ham and Everton are considering a move for the Barça star.
Some may view the France international as a high, financial risk not worth taking. But they’d be wrong.
Umtiti is only 26, and with the right care and treatment at a club that desperately wants him to return to his best, he can truly thrive. With all the rumours that swirl regarding his future in Spain, and Barcelona’s need to balance the books, it’s far from a stable environment for a player who clearly is needing a bit of love.
Just ask the truly fed up Lionel Messi.
The ex-Lyon star remains an imperious defender, and after all, he didn’t lose his place in the Barça side through a dip in form, but purely through injury problems, and later, the introduction of another top quality defender in Lenglet.
Wrong place, wrong time.
But Umtiti has got what it takes to bounce back and prove all his doubters wrong. He only managed 13 appearances for la Blaugrana this season, but when he did make it on to the pitch, the then-champions only lost twice.
This Barça team is far from exceptional either, and there are plenty of flaws in every position. He’s not to blame.
So for a team like a West Ham or a Everton, who are in desperate need of a proper leader with winning experience at the very highest level – and with time on their side – they should look no further.
Umtiti has proven time and time again that he has the credentials to lead any team to glory from the back, and all he needs is someone to put that smile back on his face to do so.
It’s a no brainer.