Ernesto Valverde hasn’t been able to rely on Samuel Umtiti of late, yet the French defender is now set to return from his fitness issues.
Not since the early stages of the 2018/19 campaign have Barcelona supporters seen the best version of the former Lyon defender, with varying physical ailments having completely stopped his Camp Nou career in its tracks.
Prior to that point, the Frenchman had performed so well that a number ot Europe’s top clubs were linked with the player, and Los Cules had to scramble to raise his buyout clause.
“I will be the same as before,” Umtiti explained a number of months ago in conversations with Barcelona‘s board members.
They believed him, however he is still struggling to discover his peak condition, although the Eibar fixture is appearing to be a form of light at the end of a tunnel.
He has been treating discomfort in his left knee for more than a year, after he refused surgery in favour of other treatments in order to play at the World Cup.
Barcelona were desperate for the surgery in order to help return the defender to where he previous was, but at every stage he was opposed to this method of recovery.
After many setbacks, Umtiti was sure that 2019/20 was going to be his year, yet early injury problems have meant that this campaign hasn’t started in the most auspicious of manners as far as he’s concerned.
He wasn’t selected by Valverde in the opening matches and then returned from international duty in September with a fresh injury.
It was the dreaded metatarsal ailment and it has kept him on the sidelines ever since, although he will likely be given minutes off the bench once the current international break is over.
The contract extension handed to Umtiti not only raised his buyout clause, but also his salary, by a significant amount, and those in power at the club are now keen to see whether Umtiti is able to return to the level of performance which earned that wage, otherwise there may well be a difficult decision to make.
Yet, they are trusting in the defender’s natural ability once again, and are setting a time frame of mid-November and it’s then they expect Umtiti to be rivalling Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet for a starting spot in the team.