Samuel Umtiti may not be a Barcelona legend like teammate Gerard Pique, but the young Frenchman was quietly one of the top defenders in the world in 2017. He is now the mainstay in the Barcelona defence and has been growing in leaps and bounds since his move from Lyon. Part of a crop of transfers that seemed disastrous, he was the only shining light and maybe the only reason Robert Fernandez and co still have their jobs.
“Barcelona should invite me to the champions league final for gifting them Umtiti”
– Jean Michael Aulas (Olympique Lyon’s President)
For someone who was signed for the future at only 25 million euros, Umtiti has turned out to be an absolute bargain. He was brilliant last season and has continued in the same vein this season, making long-term Barca man Javier Mascherano admit he has fallen in the pecking order.
Samuel Umtiti vs. Sporting
Barcelona weren’t at their best, but big Sam was. Growing into one of the best CBs.pic.twitter.com/g8QqdWIYdf
— EiF (@EiF_Highlights) September 28, 2017
In engineering, a metal is combined with a different metal or compound to form another brand of metal which is generally better in application than the individual combined metals. The resultant metal is called an alloy.
This analogy comes handy when trying to describe Umtiti and his footballing style, quality, and acumen vis-a-vis Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique.
Defenders usually have their strength and weaknesses and Umtiti isn’t an exception, but he has already shown, at a tender age of 24, his versatility and how he can play as a ball playing defender, like Pique, and as a no nonsense defender, like Puyol.
Puyol is a Barca legend and was the leader of both Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona teams. He was a no nonsense, fearless, tireless lion who never shied away from tackles and air battles. He was the SI unit of dedication and selflessness.
“I work harder than the others, I’m like the student who is not clever, but studies for his exams and does OK in the end”
– Carles Puyol
He knew he wasn’t the technical type like Pique but he compensated by doing the dirty jobs which earned the club valuable points and, ultimately, lots of trophies. He was a very quiet player off the pitch who stayed out of controversies and preserved all his energy for football. He was also a very important influence in Pique’s development.
Umtiti certainly has some of Puyol’s traits, which he has shown since his days at Lyon where he had to do the dirty jobs and sometimes play out of position at left back. Umtiti is a workaholic: he rarely gets tired in games. He’s full of power and strength, he gets aggressive when need be, and he has a bullish stature just like Puyol. In his two years at Barca; he already has famous goal line clearances and tackles. His passion and love for the club, just like Puyol, is unquestionable. He can also fit into any kind of defence, whether it’s 3 at the back or 4. One interesting thing about him is that, with all his technical abilities, he is also a no nonsense defender with lots of charisma. He is a born leader and will likely captain Barca in the future.
Gerard Pique is probably the best systemic defender in the world. His ball playing ability cannot be overemphasized; he is key to Barca’s style of play. He reads the game perfectly with astute interceptions and well timed tackles. His strength, unlike other unconventional defenders, is his positional play. He and Umtiti have formed what seems like an impenetrable wall. The duo have combined well and the latter seems to be learning a lot from his new boss.
“On the field, Gerard tells me a lot”
– Samuel Umtiti
“Pique is the boss of the defence – he guides and advises me”
– Samuel Umtiti
The mentor – protégé relationship between Puyol and Pique is the same with Pique and Umtiti. Umtiti came into Barca’s defence having to learn a new style of play, and Pique helped him to develop this more technical aspect ofhis game. Umtiti presently plays more like Pique than Puyol. He is unbelievably composed and calm even under intense pressure. His ability to pass the ball out of defence was definitely inherited from Pique.
“I honestly didn’t know Umtiti before he arrived. Watching him does not surprise me for what he does in games. I see the qualities that he has and that’s why it doesn’t surprise me later on the field ”
– Lionel Messi
Samuel Umtiti, who was relatively unknown not too long ago, is now one of the hottest defenders in Europe. His dedication, talent, and hard work shows that he has the potential to be an important player for many years to come.
Written by @Shinaspeaks