Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti last night confirmed the interest of Premier League giants Manchester United in his services.
Umtiti, a 24-year-old central defender, made the move to the Camp Nou from Lyon in the summer of 2016 for a fee of 25 million Euro.
The powerful stopper arrived in Catalonia with hefty expectations on his young shoulders, with Barca having long been on the lookout for a dependable central-defensive partner for Gerard Pique.
However, he was regularly singled out for criticism during his debut campaign with the club, as Luis Enrique’s men struggled defensively, particularly in Europe.
This season has seen Umtiti begin to prove just why he was so highly-regarded in France, though, with the Lyon youth product having strung together a number of absolutely dominant performances at the back for Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Umtiti proved a key factor in Barca conceding just four goals in their opening eleven La Liga fixtures to start the campaign, allowing the club to open up a massive lead over fierce rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish top-flight.
Unsurprisingly, Umtiti’s stellar form at the Camp Nou has led to inevitable links with a number of European football’s other giants, with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea previously named as huge admirers.
A report from Sport last month claimed that Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho had made personal contact with Umtiti regarding a move to Old Trafford, with the Portuguese tactician having informed Umtiti that the Red Devils are willing to offer him a 9 million Euro-per-season salary, the exact figure that the 16-time capped French international is rumoured to be seeking at the Camp Nou.
Additionally, reports in Spain have been mounting over recent weeks that Barca are not willing to offer Umtiti such a hefty wage packet as part of a new deal at the club, with negotiations between the parties labelled as ‘not going well’.
‘Nothing has started’
Up until this week, Umtiti himself had remained relatively quiet regarding his current state of mind in Catalunya, only resulting in the rumours surrounding a possible summer departure from the La Liga leaders gathering pace.
However, the French stopper subsequently put an end to his silence during an interview with Canal+ on Monday, revealing that he has in fact not even begun negotiations with Barcelona over a contract extension, as well as insisting that he is ‘very happy’ with the club:
‘There is interest from several clubs but, I said it again, I have so many objectives to reach with Barcelona that for the moment the question does not arise.’
‘In this world, it goes very fast. But what I can say is that I am very happy.’
‘My future is a subject that I don’t want to talk about too much. I haven’t started anything yet. Maybe there is an interest from Barca [for an extension], but nothing has started.’
‘Not only Manchester United’
Speaking in another interview regarding his future at the Camp Nou following Barcelona’s victory over Roma in the Champions League quarter-finals last night, Umtiti was keen to once again reiterate his ‘love’ for the Blaugrana, after pointing to the club’s badge having forced Kostas Manolas to put through his own net in the 55th-minute:
‘It’s a celebration like any other, I just wanted to say how much I love this club,’ Umtiti told beIN Sports.
‘I just play, try to do things right. This is the most important thing for me. I try to do it for a club like Barca, and continue to do it.’
‘As for everything else, these are things that come out in the press. Some are true, others wrong, but I just focus on football.’
In addition, Umtiti was also questioned on the rumours that Manchester United are readying a summer bid for his services, with the French stopper confirming the interest of the Red Devils, as well as other clubs:
‘It’s not only Manchester United, other clubs want me as well, but my sole focus is on Barcelona.’
‘Negotiations for a contract renewal have not started yet.’
‘My release clause is low, but that’s not what I worry about, I focus on the pitch.’