Talks between Barcelona and Samuel Umtiti over a new contract have reportedly slowed down further amid continued links to Manchester United.
According to Sport, after the Blaugrana's shock elimination from the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Roma on Tuesday, the urgency to get a new deal agreed for the France international has "slowed" and "can be cooled further" (h/t Sport Witness).
Sport also suggested United are stepping up their interest in the player, with the appearance of legendary former Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson at Tuesday's game said to have been considered "a new measure of pressure."
Umtiti is noted to have a €60 million (£52 million) buyout clause in his contract at the Camp Nou, an amount that arguably represents value for money given his excellent form since joining Barca in 2016.
His reluctance to sign a deal hasn't gone down too well with Barcelona supporters.
"The French international claims to be in the second economic ladder of the workforce, along with many of the heavyweights who have amply demonstrated their importance in the sporting successes of recent years," Sport said.
Since the speculation surrounding Umtiti's future has been ramped up, the player's form has taken a nosedive; Rafael Hernandez of Grup 14 suggested the defender may be distracted:
Umtiti's recent slump has not been in keeping with the rest of his Barcelona career, as he's largely been imperious at the Camp Nou over the past two years.
Only Atletico Madrid have conceded fewer goals than the Blaugrana in La Liga in 2017-18, and so much of that is due to the Frenchman's influence. Alongside Gerard Pique in central defence, he's been rock-solid, relishing aerial duels, winning tackles and bringing the ball out from the back with purpose.
Should an extension remain unsigned heading into the transfer window, there will be a worry among Barca supporters that they may lose the 24-year-old. After all, for a team like United that needs to strengthen at centre-back, he would represent an excellent capture.
According to B/R's Dean Jones, the Red Devils aren't the only side monitoring Umtiti's situation:
Although there's been frustration at the player from Cules lately, it would be a big blow if Umtiti went elsewhere. The centre-back is a linchpin around whom the rest of the team could be built for many years to come, and finding someone capable of replicating that longevity would be tough.
Umtiti would most likely get lucrative offers from Premier League clubs and wages that would surpass what he's earning at the Camp Nou. Still, at Barcelona, he's on course to win two trophies this term, and there aren't many clubs in Europe capable of challenging for as many prizes as the Blaugrana.