(Ben W) #1

(Barcelona, Spa & Fra)
A regular starter in his first two seasons
at Camp Nou, and with his reputation
further enhanced by a string of fine
performances as France won the 2018
World Cup, the 25-year-old centre-back
seemed part of the Barca establishment.
But how quickly it has all turned sour.
Sidelined for several months this term
with a knee injury, he has been forced
to watch compatriot Clement Lenglet
step into the breach with aplomb. Since
returning to the squad in February, Umtiti
has mainly been on the bench – and he
could become even more marginalised if
Ajax defender Matthijs De Ligt arrives in
the summer.
And if he has to start again elsewhere,
a number of leading Premier League
clubs, particularly Manchester United and
Arsenal, will be keen to help out.
Umtiti needs to play. After a prolonged

spell out he is palpably rusty – a state of
affairs which was there for all to see in
a recent 4-4 draw with Villarreal.
The word in Barcelona is that the club
remain angry with him for insisting on
non-surgical treatment for cartilage
trouble in his left knee. Instead of taking
the advice of club medics and going
under the knife he made a stand,
adamant that a holistic approach
would serve him best.
He duly went to Qatar to work
with specialists. The reason for his
squeamishness? A complicated recovery
from a knee operation during his
formative years at Lyon.
Neither the club or media corps were
impressed. “He
has wasted a
stormed a
reporter from

the Mundo Deportivo sports daily. And
judging by the virulent criticism he has
received in the local press of late, a move
looks ever more likely.
“The easy thing would have been an
operation,” he told L’Equipe about his
decision. “However, I’m not like that.
Mentally I’m strong and I don’t give up.
Even when the going is tough, which it
was. Yes, there were times when I should
have relented and had the operation.
“But I held out. I was fortunate to have
good people around me.”
Capped 29 times by France, the
Cameroon-born Umtiti is still an
automatic pick for Les Bleus and was on
target in a 4-0 victory over Iceland in a
Euro 2020 qualifier in Paris.
Having described the past few months
as a “nightmare”, maybe it’s time for a
change of scene.
Nick Bidwell


“He has wasted a season”
Sports daily Mundo Deportivo