Samuel Umtiti is happy to be on loan at Lecce in Italy after leaving Barcelona.
The Frenchman was a promising recruit. At 6-foot-2, he’s not the tallest, but his leaping ability gives him the edge in aerial battles against taller attackers, and he’s a solid man-to-man defender. A rare left-footed center back, he was also a good passer and was often involved in the buildup. He also had good ball control and was often involved in attacks, and was touted as one of the best defenders in the world.
Indeed, his potential was exceptional. He made his senior debut for Olympique Lyonnais in the 2011-12 season when he was just 18 years old, making 12 league appearances to gain experience. He earned a passing grade that season and was promoted to the team’s starting lineup for the 2012-13 season, where he experienced a steep rise.
After developing into one of the best defenders in French Ligue 1, he headed to Barcelona for the 2016-17 season, where the Catalan club spent a hefty €25 million on him and used him as a first-team regular from his first year. His first two seasons were decent. Umtiti played 20+ league games a season and was a steady presence.
But injuries slowed him down. In the middle of the 2018-19 season, he suffered a long-term knee injury and went through a long rehabilitation period of about five months. When he returned, his performance wasn’t as good as it had been and he spent more time on the bench than in the starting lineup. It was at this point that Umtiti’s glass-half-full mentality kicked in, and he was consistently on the injury list every season, playing less than 20 games all season.
Despite his long stint on the sidelines, Barcelona couldn’t let go of his talent and re-signed him until 2026. But even after extending his contract, Umtiti’s form hasn’t returned메이저놀이터. Last season, Umtiti made just one league appearance.
Eventually, Barcelona gave up. They deemed Umtiti a “non-performer” and tried to sell him. However, due to his high weekly wages, no team wanted to buy him outright. He was sent on loan to Lecce ahead of the season, but only on the condition that Barcelona would subsidize most of his weekly wages.
The loan to Lecce proved to be a godsend. In 23 league appearances, Umtiti has been impressive defensively and has been very happy on loan. Umtiti was even brought to tears by the reception he received from Lecce fans.
According to Spanish outlet Sport, “Umtiti has already adapted to Lecce. He likes everything about the team – the atmosphere, his teammates, the coach – and he believes in the coach’s abilities. For the first time in years, he feels like he is playing a proper role as a soccer player,” reported Sport.
Umtiti also expressed his satisfaction. “The only thing I wanted was to feel appreciated, useful and respected,” he told French broadcaster Canal Flux. “I was in prison for four years in Barcelona, not only on the pitch but in everyday life,” he said, “I realized (in Barcelona) that no one trusted me anymore. In Salento (southern Italy, where Lecce is located) I got my smile back. I am grateful. I love the language, the food, the fashion here,” he said.