There was a time in the not too distant past that Samuel Umtiti could’ve legitimately been described as the best defender in La Liga.
The Frenchman was really at the peak of his defensive powers; the proverbial wall if you will.
And then it all seemed to go a little sour.A knee injury came at precisely the wrong time for ‘Big Sam,’ and he’s never really recovered.
Fortunately, as far as Barcelona were concerned, Umtiti’s national team colleague, Clement Lenglet, was already on board and was able to ease into the left-sided central defensive spot.
In fact, were it not for such a seamless transition, Barca might well have been in big trouble for most of last season.
The issue for Umtiti hasn’t gone away, however, and it’s now becoming a real problem for the club.
They know that, in general terms, he’s unable to complete two full games in a row without any flare ups to his knee, and what’s worse is that all of this could’ve been avoided.
For the last year or so, the defender has preferred to treat his knee ‘holistically’ rather than going under the knife.
Should he have done the latter, there’s every reason to expect that he would be back to somewhere approaching his best by now.
As it is, he can almost certainly be considered second choice now, behind Lenglet.
Still a big name, Barca will be assessing their options in January, and with player sales likely, Umtiti could still command somewhere between the €50m-60m bracket.
That represents a healthy uplift on what Barcelona paid Lyon for his services and provides some sort of justification for allowing him to leave.
Of course, a move was mooted in the summer, and all of the rumours coming out of the Camp Nou suggested that the player himself was none too happy at being used as a pawn in any other potential incoming deals.
That’s as maybe, because if Barca now consider him expendable, just like they’ve done with Ivan Rakitic, there are ways and means of ‘managing him out of the business.’
Football is an unsavoury place at times, and when players and their employers go head to head it very rarely ends well.
In fairness to Barcelona, they’ve been more than accommodating with a player whom they had wanted to keep long term.
Umtiti can only have himself to blame if he has to ply his trade elsewhere in 2020.