Reliability is arguably the most important virtue in a central defender. A manager needs to know what they’re getting from their centre backs – that is crucial.
So, would it be fair to say that Samuel Umtiti is not the answer to any problematic situation relating to injury for a top level football club?
Well, yes, it would.
Despite his history, the Frenchman has been linked with a number of clubs as a solution to widespread injury crises around Europe. The centre back has been identified by Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus as a replacement for veteran Giorgio Chiellini.
The 36-year old has struggled to stay fit this campaign, due to the frenzied schedule. While he looks likely to return soon enough from muscular problems, I Bianconeri want a solution to the possibility of him being sidelined again throughout the season.
Liverpool have suffered a great deal from injuries up to this point, and it’s no secret that they have been scouring the market for centre back options after long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez. Umtiti has recently been identified as a possible acquisition to fill the void at the back for Jurgen Klopp.
Most heavily linked to the 27-year old are Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton. The Toffees boss reportedly wants to invest in better quality options in central defence, due to the significantly mediocre performances from Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina thus far this campaign that have led the Italian to look for starting options elsewhere.
There is no doubt Umtiti is a quality player. The centre back was a key component of Didier Deschamps’ World Cup winning side in 2018, and scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Belgium in the semi-final. Under normal circumstances, the Frenchman is an outstanding player to have in your squad, competing with other players for a spot in the starting XI.
However, these are not normal circumstances. You can’t help but see the irony when Umtiti, whose potentially world class career has been stifled with knee injuries, is being named as a solution to a number of clubs who find themselves in, well, severe injury-stricken times.
Since the 2018 World Cup, in which Umtiti was faultless alongside Raphael Varane, the Barcelona centre back has featured just 33 times for his club. The Frenchman has suffered on and off from knee problems, which has been the principle cause of his absences.
Those absences have paved the way for fellow Frenchman Clement Lenglet to assert himself as a firm favourite for club and country. With Umtiti playing catch up from a long way behind, there’s no doubt the former Lyon man is off speed and considerably lacking in match fitness as he concentrates on his rehabilitation.
On his road to recovery, Umtiti has been training with Barcelona B and is said to be steadily making his way back. However, with January just around the corner, it seems extremely unlikely that the Frenchman will be up to match sharpness for top flight clubs – especially given the busy schedule this season brings.
It’s a great shame that Umtiti’s career has led him to a situation of exile at Barcelona. The unfortunate nature of his spell at the Catalan giants has prompted his club to slash his selling price and make him available at around just £10m, depending on which outlets you trust.
While this is obviously a minimal fee for someone of his potential quality, the 27-year old comes with a hefty salary, as well as the possibility of a stint on the doctor’s table because of a dodgy knee – a prospect not even worth thinking about for most managers in current circumstances.
In a time where the maintenance of finances is a big priority, signings are having to become more and more shrewd. It’s safe to say that taking into account Umtiti’s wage and history on the sidelines to combat the severe crisis of injuries wouldn’t constitute ‘clever business’.
The Frenchman cannot be considered a viable solution to come in and fill defensive voids for clubs that are playing two matches a week. He’s just not reliable.