Samuel Umtiti is coming to Barça from Lyon, a 25m transfer (straight up, no incentives) on a 5-year deal.
Prima facie, so what, right? Those jackasses finally signed a young CB. Barça Twitter brought rumblings of overpaying, etc, etc. but let’s look at what really happened here, shall we?
In a market where CBs are the gold standard, Barça got just about the hottest young CB prospect in world football for a comparative pittance, especially as he had three years left on his contract. All the names being bandied about such as Marquinhos, would have cost at least 40m. Aymeric Laporte? 40-plus. Stones? Bidding starts at 50. Barça pulled off a brilliant move in snagging Umtiti, a player that a lot of culers are kinda in the dark about because they aren’t obsessive football freaks like some.
The deal on Umtiti is, in a few words, Mascherano on steroids, with hops. He has gobs of pace with excellent closing speed, and wins aerial duels with a regularity that makes him like a utility. His closing speed means that he can sort problems without being rash or sliding in, so he wins a lot of tackles by being in the right position. He can also play left back, not like a slumming CB but like a proper left back. Oh, and he scores goals.
There are so many good things about this transfer, starting with the price, which isn’t enough to build the crazy expectations than can saddle many a transfer. At 25m, Umtiti would be classified as a mid-priced transfer for a giant club such as Barça. There will be pressure, but not of the craziness that would have come with the price tag for a player such as Marquinhos. He will also have time to develop, which makes it easy to see why Luis Enrique insisted on Mascherano staying. Because for all of the guff that Mascherano takes, he understands how to be a Barça CB better than any CB on the club, including Pique. He will impart that knowledge to Umtiti, in training and matches.
The club also gains a young CB. La Masia is a cradle of wee, gifted midfielders, but is kinda crap at producing the front and back ends of things. Up front, Barça is set. In back, there is Pique, Mascherano, and everybody else. Mathieu is a old man without a meniscus. He will be useful this season, but look for Umtiti to pass him in the depth chart pretty quickly. Vermaelen is serviceable. The end, now that Bartra is off to Dortmund. More importantly, Umtiti, at age 22, is for the future. The club is old at key spots. A quality CB, and a young one, was essential for Barça. It’s unfortunate that the club isn’t also going after another young’un despite the Mauricio Lemos rumors, but look for that position to be further reinforced in coming windows.
Umtiti also has DM-like ball skills, and is very comfortable moving forward in attack. It’s difficult to find a “Barça CB” in a world where more traditional CBs are revered. As good as a player such as Thiago Silva is, there is something to be said for a smaller, fast, mobile CB who gets up and back on the pitch with alacrity. That is Umtiti. The other cool thing about the transfer is that it’s nice to see some brotha back in the club. I remember the days of Thuram, Abidal, Henry and Eto’o. From this seat, a global club should look like the globe — Spaniards, South Americans, French, white, black, shades in between. Plus it gives the more backward-thinking Catalans something to huff about.
Now, here’s the caveat: He’s a young player, so be patient. He will make errors. Old players also make errors, but there is more patience for those than with young players, especially young players that cost anything more than a warm beverage at a coffee shop. Never forget how cruel the fanbase was to Txigrinski. It takes a very strong player not to be bothered by that kinda crap. It won’t stop people from doing it, even as it should.
The Umtiti move also solidifies what is shaping up to be an excellent summer for Barça, and one that is, of necessity, youth-focused. Neymar renewed, for a 5-year deal. He’s 24. Umtiti is 22. Denis Suarez, who will return to the club this summer from loan, is 22. Even if those three moves are all that the club does, it will have been an excellent summer. But rest assured that more is coming, since the club maintains that Umtiti was signed from transfer kitty goodies left over from last season. This means the club has 68m (60+Bartra proceeds) to spend this summer. Let’s see what happens.
In the meantime, welcome a new CB to the fold, and watch the France/Iceland match at Euros, where buzz is that he will be starting for Les Bleus.
P.S. The last player that Barça signed from Lyon didn’t exactly suck, did he?