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“Ideal place for him”: Italian club president hails Barcelona loanee after MOTM display vs Lazio



Photo by Simone Arveda/Getty Images

After a couple of seasons being frozen out at FC Barcelona, Samuel Umtiti secured a loan exit from the club, joining Serie A side Lecce in the summer transfer window.

While he had to bide his time to get into the Italian outfit, the 29-year-old Frenchman has grown into a regular at the heart of the Lecce backline over the past few months.

On Wednesday, however, the 2018 FIFA World Cup winner was subjected to a barrage of racial insults from the fans of Lazio during a match at Lecce’s home venue.

The vile act from the Lazio supporters against Umtiti and his teammate Lameck Banda forced the referee to halt the match briefly while the stadium announcer requested those in the stands to stop their chants.

Umtiti walked off the pitch in tears but called on the referee to resume the match. Not only that, but the defender put in an impressive display in the latter stages of the game as Lecce eventually went on to seal a victory.

Following the incident, Lecce president Saverio Sticchi Damiani spoke to TMW in an exclusive interview earlier today and hailed Umtiti, claiming that signing him on loan was not a marketing operation but a technical one.

“Umtiti was never a marketing operation. When he arrived many people described it that way. Both I and the sporting director tried to explain to everyone how it was a technical operation, made exclusively because it was a great opportunity for Lecce,” he said.

Talking about how the Frenchman also needed a change of scenery, the Lecce president added: “Umtiti needed a quiet place, but one that lived for football.”

Damiani then seemed to aim a dig at Barcelona over their treatment of Umtiti, as he said: “He was sidelined for evaluations that I cannot know, which concern Barcelona. I can say that Lecce is the ideal place for him to start again.

“When he arrived he lacked something on the athletic level. Now he has trained with us, something he didn’t do this summer, and he is completely in the project.”

Talking about the racism incident against Lazio, the Lecce president added: “Already in the first half there was some chanting about Lameck Banda, then in the second half even more perceptible about Umtiti.

“The most beautiful response was the fans covering the racist booing by chanting Umtiti’s name, to cover the howling. On the pitch everyone saw it, the player gave even more, doing a second half like a World Champion.”

Umtiti has played six times for Lecce since joining the club, with the Serie A outfit losing just one of those. The Italians do not have an option to make the transfer permanent and he is expected to be back at Barcelona when the season ends.

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