Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has made it clear that Samuel Umtiti is happy at the Nou Camp amid interest from Manchester United.
The Frenchman, who has been the club’s best defender this season, has a release clause of just £54m ahead of the summer transfer window.
But Umtiti, who currently earns £50,000-a-week, is yet to strike a new deal with Barcelona given the club’s reluctance to sanction his demands for a financial package worth £8m a year, prompting keen interest from Man United.
However, Valverde has played down talk of Umtiti leaving, insisting he was happy at Barcelona and expressing hope that he would stay at the club for many years.
“I don’t know what Umtiti’s said, I have not followed his comments,” he said. “My understanding is Umtiti is happy here and we are happy with him, I hope he will continue for many years because he is very important both on and off the field.”
“We hope the negotiations will come to fruition and that he will be able to continue for many years here.”
Umtiti does indeed want to stay at Barcelona, insisting earlier this week that playing for the Blaugrana was his dream, but the way he added that other clubs – not just United – were interested in him indicates that he is going to play hardball with Barcelona chiefs.
Just like Sergio Ramos in 2015, Umtiti is using United’s interest as leverage for the best deal possible at the Nou Camp. He wants to enter the same earning bracket as Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez, and Barcelona will be acutely aware of other clubs willing to snap him up in the summer if they don’t meet his demands.