Power. It was one of the first words Barcelona used in the introduction to their new signing, Samuel Umtiti of France, on their website. With that aspect added to the defence, the Catalans have fixed a major flaw in their side.
22-year-old Umtiti impressed many with his performance for France in the European Championship. He wasn't the first choice centre-back for coach Didier Deschamps at the start of the campaign, with the experience of Laurent Koscielny and Adil Rami being deemed more valuable. Rami's suspension for the quarterfinals against Iceland, however, opened the doors for Umtiti to showcase his sweeper-defender act. While he looked confident in dealing with set-pieces and diagonal balls, it was his buccaneering runs forward, reminiscent of former France great Franz Beckenbauer, that stood out.
Umtiti, who already has played 170 games for French club Olympique Lyonnais, captaining the side on many occasions, gave the national team a vital option to fall back on when their midfielders were short on free space. That ability to drive through the traffic and recoil back to the original position would be more beneficial to a set-up such as Barcelona's. None of their current crop of centre-backs, Gerard Pique, Jeremy Mathieu or midfielder-turned-defender Javier Mascherano, can provide that.
Had he been there, Umtiti would have freed Barcelona's forward trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar from the clutches of Atletico Madrid defence in the Champions League quarterfinals last year. His directness would be a welcome respite when the triangular passing of Barcelona is kept out of the opposition penalty box.
The powers that be at the Catalan club clearly have done themselves a favour by completing the transfer before the European Championships.
However, this being Barcelona, there is an asterisk. The Catalan club recently lost their long-serving right-back Dani Alves, with the club agreeing to the Brazilian's request to let go of him before the expiry of his contract. Alves, who has since joined Juventus, may often have been often caught unawares in defence, but in attack, he was a thoroughbred. The Brazilian, in fact, has provided more assists to Messi than any other player in the side. Barcelona are yet to replace him.
If the club fails to find a good right-back in the transfer window, do not be surprised if coach Luis Enrique asks Umtiti to pitch in. It would be a tragic misuse of such a great talent. One can only hope Barcelona won't be that silly with their transfers.