Umtiti not thinking about leaving Barcelona in spite of criticism from the stands
It has been a tough few months for Samuel Umtiti, but the defender insists he still has a future at Barcelona despite his lack of playing time.
Samuel Umtiti admits that he felt hurt after being jeered and whistled by Barcelona fans but says that the critcism makes him even more determined to make his time at Camp Nou a success.
The French centre-back joined the Catalans from Olympique Lyon ahead of the 2016-17 season and played in 50 LaLiga matches over his first two campaigns. However, a series of knee injuries restricted his involvement over the next three seasons and the defender was reportedly one of several high earners Barça attempted to shift during the past transfer window as the financially stricken giants tried to alleviate their spiralling debts.
Fans target Umtiti
The situation came to a head during the recent Joan Gamper Trophy game against Juventus in which Umtiti was whistled by spectators when warming up and again a target whenever he touched the ball after coming on as a second-half substitute. Umtiti has since not played a minute of competitive action this season and his treatment by the fans left him feeling isolated.
"Yes [the whistles hurt], a lot, honestly," he said in an exclusive interview with Mundo Deportivo. "I never thought this could happen to me in this club because I love it, I love this club. I do everything, everything, to be okay. I have had hard times due to injuries but in the end I do my job and this is the most important thing for me. Work and train hard, and people don't know it. [I would tell those who whistle] that I'm fine. That the most important thing is the club, helping the players, you have to help everyone. Whistling is useless. I will give everything for the club, as I have tried to do from day one."
The 27-year-old has been the subject of reported interest from former club Lyon and Manchester United but he is adamant his future remains at Camp Nou with a January exit ruled out. "I don't see myself playing at another club, no, impossible. Right now I have it very clear [in my mind]," he added. "I want to show that I have the level to play here. The most important thing is to get back and show everyone that Samu is okay. It is clear to me, the most important thing now is to play here because it is my club, I love this club. I want to succeed here, play, win with my team-mates, with the team. I see myself here, I'm waiting for that moment to play. I have to continue training, working and showing that I have a place."
No problems with Koeman
Despite his ostracization from the first-team picture, Umtiti insists he has no issue with coach Ronald Koeman – whose own position has been under threat amid an indifferent start to a season that began with the exit of club legend Lionel Messi primarily due to the club's financial difficulties. Umtiti, though, says he has not specifically asked the Dutchman for more playing time as he feels he has to prove his worth on the training pitch.
"I can't ask for anything, because the coach makes the decisions and I have to accept them. I must train and show that I am okay," he said. "Ask for something? I will not do it and I think it should not be done. I must prove it on the field. We have six centre-backs and I knew it was going to be difficult to play but I am like that, if I have something in mind and I am sure I have the level, I intend to prove it."
In terms of his injury issues, Umtiti is adamant he is fitter and stronger than ever and is itching for a chance to prove so, while saying the work he has done behind the scenes to recover has not been fully appreciated.
"Nobody knows what I have done and what I do. The workouts I do, the double sessions. I'm a worker," he added. "Football is my life, Barcelona is my life. Since I do not speak, people think that I do nothing, that I am on the couch all day doing nothing but at home I work, I train every day. We can train every day but I lack the rhythm of matches. Rhythm, rhythm, that I hope it reaches me."