Struggling with constant injuries and a glaring lack of form, can Samuel Umtiti finally return to his best when Barcelona need him most?
Barcelona just cannot seem to shake off their injury woes at the moment. The knee injury to Gerard Pique is a huge blow to the Catalans who are already having a very rocky season so far. With only one senior defender to turn to in Clement Lenglet, all eyes now turn to Samuel Umtiti.
The Frenchman has had a rough few years of late, with his knee problems constantly plaguing his form. The issues first began with the left knee back in May 2018, just a month before the World Cup in Russia. With the severity uncertain, he decided to risk it and played the tournament. It turned out to be a great decision at the time, as he was one of the cornerstones in Didier Deschamps’ France backline, who went on to lift the biggest trophy in world football.
However, the 27-year-old has constant trouble with the knee ever since. During the 2018/19 season, he was sidelined for almost 6 months due to recurring issues with his meniscus. After his first relapse in September of 2018, he was presented two options; undergo surgery or begin a conservative treatment plan in Qatar. Umtiti opted for the latter to ensure he would be back earlier. Alas, the knee is still causing major issues. The World Cup winner seems but a shadow of his former self.
The medics always have to be ready when Umtiti is on the pitch. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
Dire situation at Centerback
After his injury against Atletico Madrid, Pique seems set for a lengthy spell out on the sidelines. Reports suggest that he may be out for anywhere between 4-9 months after Barcelona confirmed that he sprained his knee and sustained partial damage to his ACL. The veteran defender’s absence not only is a huge miss for his ability but also due to injury issues with other centre-backs.
With Ronald Araujo also yet to return, Lenglet is the only senior centre-back fit for selection. With a wave of crucial matches coming up for the Blaugrana, the big question remains will Umtiti return soon? He has not played a single match for Barça since last season, but Ronald Koeman hopes to have him back soon.
“Hopefully Umtiti will be back with the team in a couple of weeks. His last game was last season, he’s been out for six or seven months and he needs time.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-game Presser, Dynamo Kyiv
Until Umtiti and Araujo return, it looks like Oscar Mingueza will get more chances at the heart of the defence. An up-and-coming prospect, who can hopefully build on his performance against Dynamo Kyiv ahead of a congested schedule.
Scope for redemption?
Up until his injuries halted his progress, Umtiti was hotly tipped as one of the best central defenders in the world. The Frenchman’s aggressive but composed style of defending, brilliant reading of the game and assurance on the ball, made it seem as though he was set to be a key piece in Barça’s defence for years to come.
One of the best defenders in the world at a time, Umtiti’s fall has been heartbreaking. (Photo by David Ramos)
Lately, however, the drastically changing landscape at the club ad fitness issues have left a huge question mark hanging about the future of Umtiti at Barcelona. Amid the whirlwind of restructuring, it has seemed more likely that Umtiti may be on his way out. Over the past year, he has been constantly linked to moves away, especially to his former club Olympique Lyonnais.
Even so, it is up to the 27-year-old defender to prove he has a lot left to give. While he expressly stated that there are certain things he would have done differently during his recuperation, he also expressed his keen desire staying and succeeding at the club.
With the right attitude and some fortune, Samuel Umtiti can return to the Barcelona XI and be a huge asset. Given the club’s dismal financial situation and lack of defenders, he will definitely get a chance at redemption. And he deserves it to try and prove himself. But there is little doubt that if things don’t turn around soon, Umtiti’s days at the club are numbered.