Samuel Umtiti is only 24, but he’s already a World Cup winner, and one of the best defenders in the world. The Frenchman seems set on emulating the career of the legendary Carles Puyol, scoring a winning goal in the semifinals before winning the World Cup. Both, of course, made their name at FC Barcelona.
Umtiti had a mistake early in the tournament, committing a silly handball that resulted in Australia scoring a penalty in the group stage. France went on to win that match 2-1, and Umtiti was pretty close to error-free afterwards.
Partnered with Real Madrid’s Raphaël Varane, Umtiti gave the French squad arguably the best centerback pairing in the world. Barça and Madrid now own a part of each of not just France’s defensive pairing, but Spain’s as well. But there was a sense of a changing of the guard as Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos did not cover themselves in glory this time around, while their younger club teammates won the final.
Umtiti may not get into many “best XI” lists out there, and to some extent he may be overshadowed by Varane, but make no mistake, France needed him this year.
Barcelona have signed Clément Lenglet from Sevilla, but it’s clear that he’s going to be a backup to Umtiti. Umtiti had some slightly underwhelming moments last season, but there are few, if any better defenders his age. He’s won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the World Cup. But he’s still missing that UEFA Champions League trophy. Will he get it?