FC Barcelona are linked with a move for Olympique Lyon’s Samuel Umtiti, as Luis Enrique looks to sort out an aging defence by bringing in some fresh blood in the summer. On that note, we discuss the three possible centre-back options the Catalans should consider to bolster their back-line in the upcoming transfer window.
Olympique Lyon’s President Jean-Michel Aulas, while squashing rumours of striker Lacazette’s move to Barcelona in the summer, stated that the Catalans had instead shown interest in their French defender Samuel Umtiti.
The Blaugrana will be on the look-out for some good defensive reinforcements in the summer as Luis Enrique looks to strengthen a back-line that’s crying out for good quality. Apart from Pique and Mascherano, who continue to remain the mainstay of that defence, the Catalans have an underwhelming back-up in Jeremy Mathieu and injury-prone Thomas Vermaelen.
The Cameroon-born French defender is enjoying a great season with Olympique Lyon having featured in 36 games for Les Gones. He has arguably been the best player in a season that has seen the Ligue 1 outfit sit 2nd behind Paris St. Germain (albeit 27 points behind).
The centre-back was recently linked with a summer move to Tottenham Hotspur, a rumour the Frenchman was admittedly left flattered by. However Umtiti has gone on to state that he’d ditch the glitz and glamour of the Premier League for a move to the Spanish La Liga, where the style of play is more suited to him. The Frenchman is good in the air and is brilliant at making crucial tackles in defence, with the defender averaging 2.4 interceptions and tackles per game. He has also been instrumental in fending off any threats posed by the opposition attack, averaging almost 5 defensive clearances every game he has played a part in.
The defender is yet to make his bow for Les Bleus, having made an appearance at every other level for France. However, with Mamadou Sakho on the verge of missing the Euros with a lengthy ban owing to his doping scandal, and Aymeric Laporte out due to injury, Umtiti may well come in as a surprise addition into Didier Deschamps’ squad.
The Greek centre-half has been a crucial part of AS Roma’s defence this year, missing out on only one game all season for Luciano Spalletti’s side. Manolas has landed more successful tackles than any other Roma player this season, and with 76% aerial duels won, he has been a towering presence in defence for the Italians. Quite often, his aerial prowess makes him the target-man in set-piece situations and the Greek more often than not delivers.
His performance over the last two seasons at Rome, since his arrival from Olympiacos Piraeus, has attracted the attention of the Premier League elite such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The centre-back is valued at £15 million by the Romans and will come as a useful addition to the Blaugrana setup should the move be considered.
Atletico Madrid have kept 41 clean sheets this season, and Jose Gimenez on the back of Miranda’s departure has been a crucial component behind that spectacular defensive record. The Uruguayan has endured a stellar season for Atletico with his performance attracting a £51 million pound bid from cross-town neighbours and bitter rivals Real Madrid.
In a style of play that has Atletico Madrid invite the pressure from their opponents early on while they attack on the counter, the centre-back has dished out some solid performances to merit the side’s enviable defensive record. The defender averages at least nine blocks, interceptions and clearances a game and, along with fellow countryman Diego Godin, has forged a formidable partnership at the back.
Diego Simeone will be keen on latching onto Gimenez but even he will know that the lure of the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid can be a tempting prospect for any youngster. The Uruguayan has performed incredibly well in the La Liga and he will be an upgrade in any defence in the league, let alone Barcelona.
Fresh changes in defence required
At one point of time this season, Barcelona were absolutely cruising and aided by the devastating trio in Messi, Suarez and Neymar up-front, the Catalans looked odds on to complete a famous treble. Their season took a spectacular turn in April, where a poor run of form resulted in a nine-point lead in the league being wiped out and a Champions’ League exit at the hands of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.
The Blaugrana have recovered since that rut and with two game-weeks to go, are still favourites to lift the league crown over the Madrid clubs. With the Copa Del Rey also at stake, the Catalans can still enjoy a reasonable amount of success going into the business end of yet another campaign. While the attack is sorted out, Luis Enrique will want to use this summer to bring in some much needed quality at the back.