Grading Samuel Umtiti's transfer to Barcelona
Barcelona have officially announced the signing of French defender Samuel Umtiti, tying the 22-year-old defender to a 5-year contract for a €25 million fee.
Despite their superb first team, Barcelona struggled with depth last year, especially in defense. The versatile Umtiti goes a long way toward solving this problem with his ability to play both center back and left back. His arrival will provide a much-needed supplement of quality, and he'll push Javier Mascherano for a starting spot alongside Gerard Pique.
Barcelona had strength in numbers, but both Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu missed huge chunks of the 2015/16 season due to injury, leaving the Blaugrana vulnerable during key points. After rarely stepping on the pitch for Barcelona, and a poor showing at Euro 2016, Vermaelen will most likely be shipped out, following La Masia product Marc Bartra, who recently signed for Borussia Dortmund.
Injuries shouldn't be a worry from Umtiti, who has managed to stay remarkably healthy so far in his career, missing only three games due to injury for Lyon since his debut in 2011. Still quite young for a defender, he should provide a much-needed boost for Barcelona's backline, and will ideally form a long-term partnership with Gerard Pique.
Reims' French forward Gaetan Charbonnier (R) vies with Lyon's French Cameroonian defender Samuel Umtiti (L) during the French Ligue 1 football match between Reims and Lyon
A pacy, strong tackler who is good in the air, Umtiti is an intelligent reader of the game and a calm presence on the ball who should fit well with Barcelona's intensely possession-focused playing style. Left-footed, he'll mainly operate as a center back, but has the versatility to play out wide should the situation require. As he showed in the European Championships, he has world class potential, but will need to add consistency to his game and improve his decision-making in order to make the leap to the next level.
Umtiti's release clause stood at €60 million, and to take a player of his caliber off the notoriously stubborn Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas for just €25 million can be considered a great piece of business for Barcelona. Alongside new man Denis Suarez, Barcelona seem to have made two very shrewd signings to bolster a side in real need of reinforcements.
For just €25 million, Barcelona have secured the signature of a player who has the ability to anchor the center of their defense for the next decade. Umtiti is young, proven at a high level, and has shown the potential to become truly world class. If he can settle into the pressure cooker that is the Nou Camp, Barcelona may just be the perfect place for him to make that leap.
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