Who said dreams never come true? They do, obviously. Samuel Umtiti could only dream of becoming a first-choice defender for the France national team and then move to Barcelona at the age of 22. The Lyon academy outlet was always considered as one of the most promising full-backs of the world, but no one could predict his move to such a club at such an early stage of career.
He made his professional debut in Lyon back in 2012, playing the entire match in a 3–1 victory over local rivals Lyon-Duchère in a Coupe de France game. On 12 January 2013, when Lyon beat Troyes 2-1 in an away match, he scored his first career goal. That was the first of those 5 goals in 170 games he spent in the team before moving to Barcelona for a fee of €25 m.
However, it was Euro 2016 when he really shone. Being a substitute player at the start of the tournament, he eventually became one of the most important members of Deschamp’s team. In the absence of Raphael Varane, France missed that youth vigor. Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny were good, but not perfect. Consequently, Deschamps opted to play Umtiti in in place of Rami starting from the quarter finals. He was right. Umtiti showed strength, passion, tactical excellence and aerial power.
Now he moves to Barcelona, where demands will be much higher. If you can make a mistake in Lyon, do it again and again and get justified by age and verdancy, you do not have that chance in one of the biggest clubs in the world.
On the other hand, it’s evident, that Barcelona need him. The Catalan side is having troubles with full-backs in recent seasons, after Carles Puyol retired from the football. Javier Mascherano transformed himself into a defender and covered that gap for years, but he never did it perfectly. Now, keeping in mind the Argentine’s age and imminent farewell, coaches have another pearl to play alongside Gerard Pique. Sometimes Umtiti even covered the left flank in Lyon, but we can be sure he will do that in Barcelona only in the most emergency cases, as there are Jordi Alba, Luca Digne and Jeremy Mathieu to cover that position. Most probably, if Javier Mascherano leaves the club, Barcelona’s defense will look like the following in the coming season:
Aleix Vidal – Gerard Pique – Samuel Umtiti – Jordi Alba
Nevertheless, it’s also possible that Mascherano will stay for one more season, which will mean that Umtiti has to sit out first matches. Luis Enrique will surely choose the trusted variant with the experienced Argentine ahead of the inexperienced and still young Frenchman. In that case, Umtiti has to prove his qualities to win the competition against Mascherano, but you never know what will happen. Javier has the pole position in the starting line, but just a little mistake and Umtiti will overtake him. Samuel is on the top of Everest now, but the hardest thing is not to reach the top, but to remain there.