Samuel Umtiti needs to get out of Barcelona ASAP, no matter if he himself does not want to admit as much. Barcelona, after previously appearing as though they had found some fluency and form, now appear mediocre by many measurements, including the eye test. Should it continue, one imagines Lionel Messi will jump ship for Manchester City if not in January, certainly during the next Summer window. Umtiti will need to go too, and sooner would be better for all parties rather than later; Everton would benefit from the French defender tremendously and the media has already been hinting that the move could be happening too.
What he provides with his experience, resume and pedigree is very similar to what players like James Rodriguez and Allan are providing at their respective positions; Isco too would provide similar recourse of course. Both at the practical and intellectual levels, Umtiti can help the backline protect Jordan Pickford more effectively, as well as to more actively participate in creating offensive chances off of defensive success; every young player needs good players to learn form on their own journey to greatness.
Samuel Umtiti: Success going forward as both a Mentor and Playing Contributor
While the French-Cameroonian is only 27-years-old, his experience and resume is massive. It appears that layering in players like the aforementioned is a real strategy for the club and again, should players like Umtiti or Isco be available at cut rate prices, it would be a mistake to pass on them should the club be able to foot the combined current and prospective wages. Experience is precious, and while it cannot be transmitted like capital, the effects of a persons experiences can be experienced by others over the course of daily interaction with them.
Unfortunately, with the roster as currently constructed, the entrance of a player like Umtiti would likely mean the end of a player such as Michael Keane, whose experience is a bit different than what the Barcelona man has to offer. With both at the age of 27, it’s not a stretch to argue that they may both already know their ceilings, but Umtiti at his best dwarfs Keane, without any disrespect to him and how he has performed at times this season; it is simply a matter of recognizing who has more left to grow and give, and who does not.
But Umtiti has more than simply experience, he has quality when played in the right system and around the right players. Looking at the stats down the years, he has been dependable when healthy, and when his team has been reasonable; Barcelona is simply no longer reasonable as can be witnessed with play in Spain and in greater European competition. Moving to Merseyside can offer the player a fresh chance under a legendary coach, with a good young team around him, mixed with talented veterans in their own right; the recipe that young and older talent can create is understood of course already.
On a team like Barcelona, usually fluid and decisive with the ball as they control large swathes of the match, the passing and possession numbers are self explanatory. Under Don Carlo, one might imagine that these skills could be beneficial as we look to build continuity from back to front of whatever shape we’re playing in on that day. Should this plan be put into action of course, pairing Umtiti with either Mason Holgate preferably, or Yerry Mina in turn, could really create a versatile and complete front ahead of Jordan Pickford.
Each paring will present unique qualities in tandem with the Frenchman; Mina’s heading and aerial stats will hopefully diminish the impact of Umtiti’s own poor form in these aspects, while Holgate, Ben Godfrey and Mina have the defensive capabilities to play off of a partner who does have better playmaking qualities. But it is these qualities, when paired with our other talent, that makes the opportunity for a player of his potential irresistible. Outside of the week to week practice and performances, the mental side will be crucial as well.
A Meeting of the Minds on Merseyside: The Future will be Molded by what is done in the weeks leading up to the Winter Window
As players hear the stories from past glories, see the work and techniques necessary to reach those heights and so on, skill and talent continues to grow for the young players, while the veterans begin to receive even greater competition for their own playing spots as a result. Such is the cycle of life and football however, nothing is eternal and all are replaced, if never replaceable of course. But what Umtiti can offer to fellow former Barcelona defenders Lucas Digne, upon his return from injury, and Mina is stability, communication and understanding, critical to football today.
And while his injury history has absolutely been a concern throughout his career, I believe that a solution can be found with our youth. For it is possible that a reduced weight load, with proper rotation alongside the names we have there already, could spare him the injuries that come from playing with such frequency across, France, Spain and Europe in general. But even at this reduced work rate, the centre back can still make an impact, should he remain healthy of course.
Apart from a couple games here and there this season, the defense for Everton hasn’t been as bad as for long stretches of last season, and that is worth mentioning of course. But keeping that energy going, bringing in veteran reinforcements when they’re available, is a sound strategy in keeping the positive momentum of new team culture growing.
For young Mason Holgate as well, there are possibly useful innovations too. Being able to play behind and alongside the Frenchman will be useful in organizing and strengthening the defense during a year where it appears that Don Carlo is attempting to mold the offensive side of the ball to his desired appearance. While it looks as though Marcel Brands will be continuing on with building the team with Carlo Ancelotti as well, the coin purse on Merseyside might be more open than during past winter windows.
Depending on the way the rest of December and the start of January shake out could help to determine that transfer market ambition as well. If the team can make some positive headway regarding Premiership points, they would be in a positive position for both the Winger and midfielder from Madrid, as well as the French defender via Barcelona. And while there are other options as well, those two make particular sense, especially when one hears news of Dominik Szoboszlai and his potential list of suitors; the veteran leadership of both likely makes the potentially reduced prices even more appealing if it is deemed that the club is already on the proper track.
But all of that remains to be seen, for now, it is up to Everton to get as many points as possible to put the club in the proper position for when that time comes. Without that resolve and ambition, there will likely be little need to waste money in winter, when it might better be invested during the summer, when a full season still sits in front of the team and its supporters. During the winter window, Everton will get what we deserve and if we play as though this season still has lots of meaning, I would wager that management will react accordingly; there are many names after all, that could look nice playing at Goodison Park.