Barcelona are reportedly concerned by the €60 million release clause in Samuel Umtiti's contract after Liverpool confirmed they would pay €84.5 million to make Southampton's Virgil van Dijk the most expensive defender in football when the transfer window opens in January.
Umtiti has three-and-a-half years remaining on the five-year deal he signed after moving to the Camp Nou from Lyon in 2016, but Ivan San Antonio of Sport wrote his release clause no longer looks unaffordable.
A winter move is all but impossible considering Umtiti is sidelined for two months with a hamstring injury, per Sport, and Spanish football writer Simon Harrison recently outlined his importance to La Liga's leaders:
Simon Harrison @simonhfootball
@Priya8Ramesh I think that he’s on that kind of level anyway. Ter Stegen has been phenomenal for a long while. Baffling that it goes slightly under the radar. Umtiti has been unbelievable too, shame he’s injured for today’s game.2017-12-23 11:46:09
Football's transfer market has spiralled in recent years. Paul Pogba broke the world transfer record when he re-signed for United for €110 million last year, but Barca have since purchased Ousame Dembele from Borussia Dortmund in a deal that could rise to €147 million, not to mention Neymar's record-smashing €222 million switch to Paris Saint-Germain.
ESPN FC pundit Craig Burley has warned big expenditures don't necessarily guarantee success, using Van Dijk as the most relevant example:
ESPN FC @ESPNFC
.@CBurleyESPN believes the jury is still out for new Liverpool signing Virgil van Dijk. Full video: https://t.co/oKyJkfNnBF https://t.co/L1mHFUj0gE2017-12-28 16:30:04
Umtiti has established himself as part of Barca's XI since his €25 million move from Ligue 1 and looks even better value for money today, although the same could be said of his relatively affordable release clause.
Barca are nine points clear at the summit of Spain's top flight, and it's no coincidence their charge has been built on the foundation of a phenomenal defence, both with and without Umtiti, per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan:
Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan
Barca just conceded seven goals in 17 La Liga games so far - just 1 in the 7 since Vermaelen came in for injured Umtiti #janey. Second best record in La Liga history.2017-12-23 14:12:32
The Catalan club are reportedly eager to agree improved terms and an increased release clause with Umtiti, who has won a Copa del Rey and a Spanish Super Cup with the Blaugrana since joining.
Umtiti is also cementing his place in the France national team at the age of 24 and has the potential to only increase in value in the coming years. Sport's Rik Sharma rates him highly:
Rik Sharma @riksharma_
How many better centre-backs are there than Samuel Umtiti? serious question2017-11-26 20:13:19
Any club would be able to speak to Umtiti in the event they meet his clause, although Barca have the benefit of not being as susceptible to losing star talents as other clubs given their status among the elite.
That being said, there's no accounting for Umtiti's personal ambitions and whether he'd be willing to move, meaning a new contract would be the most prudent way for them to ensure his loyalties for years to come.