Barcelona defender Gerard Pique is not concerned about rumours linking centre-back partner Samuel Umtiti with an exit from the club and expects him to remain at the Camp Nou for the foreseeable future.
Umtiti has become an integral part of the team this season, and according to the Mirror's Joe Mewis, Pique said:
"I'm not worried about what clubs might or might not do. Umtiti is a great player and we expect him to stay at Barca for many more years and for him to enjoy his football with us.
"To an extent, the buyout clause is made high so that you can't buy the player. As time goes by, that fee doesn't seem so high at all, but the player still has to want to leave.
"We're very happy with Umtiti and I'm sure he's going to stay here for a very long time."
The 24-year-old joined Barca from Olympique Lyonnais in the summer of 2016 and has since cemented himself alongside Pique in their back line.
As Rafael Hernandez of Grup 14 noted, Umtiti has made quite the impression during his time at the club, while Sport's Rik Sharma believes him to be one of the best in his position anywhere:
Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117
At this level, Umtiti’s one of the finest centre backs to ever play for Barcelona. He’s been at the club for 18 months.2017-11-26 19:57:11
Rik Sharma @riksharma_
How many better centre-backs are there than Samuel Umtiti? serious question2017-11-26 20:13:19
The France international is a superb athlete and uses his strength to fend off attackers in the air and on the ground. He's an assured presence at the back, and he's composed in possession thanks to his excellent technical ability, which he uses to carry the ball out from defence in a manner befitting a Barcelona defender.
As OptaFranz demonstrated, his distribution is flawless:
91.7 - Only Samuel Umtiti has had a higher passing accuracy (92.9%) in LaLiga games 2017 than birthday boy @ToniKroos (91.7%). Precision. @realmadriden @DFB_Team_EN https://t.co/MMX8FgNBTb2018-1-4 12:40:56
Umtiti is already among the best centre-backs in football, and he's got plenty of time to get even better. Therefore, it's of little surprise he is attracting the attention of other top sides.
His release clause—which seems particularly low after Liverpool's £75 million purchase of Virgil van Dijk—is affordable for a number of clubs, so that should be a concern for the Blaugrana.
However, as Pique noted, having his release clause met by no means guarantees Umtiti would leave. And he has little reason to move on from Barcelona, with the club nine points clear at the top of La Liga and through to the UEFA Champions League knockout phase.
If the club continues to challenge for top honours in the coming years, prising him away from the Camp Nou may still be difficult.