Manchester United’s summer-long pursuit of Harry Maguire rattles along apace with a recent twist, as per The Sun, suggesting that Manchester City have now withdrawn from the reckoning.
This naturally would leave the path clear for the Reds to finally get their man.
Last week, however, a significant spanner was thrown into the works from left-field and it arrived in the form of Samuel Umtiti, the France international centre-back who – according to The Daily Mirror– is valued at €60m (£54m) by Barcelona.
Given the 25-year-old’s unquestionable pedigree and achievements on the continent – and let’s not forget too that he is a World Cup winner – his availability should not be discounted.
Especially when he is so highly rated by his peers…
After excelling for Lyon, where the Cameroon-born centre-back made a name for himself with muscular displays and an inherent reading of danger, a £24.6m switch to the Nou Camp followed. There he hit the ground running, proving himself to be a valuable defensive foil to Gerard Pique.
It was an immediate success story that was expected by the man who signed him. As per Spanish media outlet AS (via Sports Mole).
“Samuel Umtiti? He hasn’t surprised me at all. I know him and I’ve followed him and I saw the same when he was 22 and was captain. He has a lot of credibility, uses the ball well, he’s aggressive.”
In La Liga the standard of opposition went up a notch both on match-days against the likes of Ronaldo and even in training, snuffing out the threat of Suarez and company. Yet whoever he was tasked to nullify Umtiti more often than not proved himself capable of doing so.
Indeed, when you impress the best of the best you must be doing something very right indeed. As per The Independent, Lionel Messi gave an insight into his professionalism on the training ground:
“Umtiti trains how he plays, nothing is saved. Never, neither in games nor training.
“Outside the field he is an excellent person and a great guy. I honestly did not know him much when he arrived. Watching him train, it does not surprise me what he does in games. I see the qualities that he has and that’s why it does not surprise me later in the field.”
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An international career was inevitable, following on from being a key member of France’s U-20 World Cup winning wide of 2013.
Three years later a national legend gave him his first full cap, and came out fighting for him when the press had their doubts. As per ESPN:
“He knows I have confidence in him. Some players aren’t mature at 30, some are mature at 20 – and he’s in the latter category. He deserves all the praise. He has the force of character and the force of personality that you need.”
A series of knee problems are a legitimate concern – Umtiti made only 13 starts last term as a consequence – but should he manage to overcome fitness issues, the defender who impressed Messi in training is undoubtedly an appealing alternative to Maguire.