Umtiti entered this season on the back of a World Cup triumph with France last summer and was expected to kick on in Barcelona colours after a promising first two seasons at the club, having joined from Lyon in 2016.
However, injuries – he’s made only 10 appearances for Barcelona this year thanks to a recurring knee issue – have curtailed his progress and allowed his compatriot, Clement Lenglet, to emerge as the preferred partner for veteran defender Gerard Pique. And with Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt being targeted as a summer arrival and a deal for Toulouse’s Jean-Clair Todibo to join already agreed, Umtiti may be left as the third-choice or even fourth-choice centre-back at the club. A move away could be the only way to guarantee regular playing time.
United are said to be interested as they look to recruit defensive reinforcements as part of a squad overhaul this summer, though with Umtiti’s availability on the transfer market they may prioritise other players, having been linked with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Benfica’s Ruben Dias, and Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld in recent weeks.
Though Umtiti has a €500million release clause in his Barcelona contract, a starting offer of around €70million would be a good starting point for negotiations, though the club are in no pressure to sell the Frenchman given that his contract runs until 2023.
Thibaut Courtois has yet again said he would like for his friend and Belgium team-mate Eden Hazard to join him at Real Madrid.
The duo were team-mates at Chelsea until last summer, when Courtois made the switch. Hazard has long been linked with a move to the Madrid club, and there is a chance that a transfer is done this summer, when the playmaker will be entering the final year of his current contract at Chelsea, who will not want to risk losing him for free a year later.
Though the threat of a transfer ban for Chelsea complicates matters, as they’d be unable to replace Hazard if they let him go, they have already recruited Borussia Dortmund playmaker Christian Pulisic, and given that and Hazard’s contract status, he and Courtois could soon be reunited.
“I don’t know if he is going to sign for Real Madrid, nor do I know if the club want him,” Courtois said to Spanish radio station Onda Cero on Wednesday.
“For me, he is a great player, but I don’t decide those things.
“Each one decides what he does with his life. For me, he is one of the best in the world and as a friend I would like him to be here.”
Bale’s future is a source of constant speculation, with United among those clubs regularly linked to signing the Real Madrid forward.
But former United striker Cole believes that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side need to be playing on European football’s biggest stage to harbour hopes of recruiting world-class talent.
Asked if the club should make a move for Bale, Cole said: “I think Manchester United should be going for all top players of that calibre. That’s what Manchester United is about.
“Do those players want to come to Manchester United? That’s the question.
“If Manchester United miss out on Champions League football… top players want to play Champions League football.
“When you are playing at that elite level, it’s not all about money. People think it’s all about money, but you speak to players at elite level.
“Do you want to play Champions League football or do you want a few more quid? They will say Champions League, because they want to win it – it’s a special competition.
“So if Manchester United miss out on Champions League football, it becomes difficult for them to attract players. It can be tough.”
United, who face Barcelona in the quarter-final of this year’s Champions League, are currently two points and one place off the Premier League’s top four, which would secure automatic qualification for next season’s competition.
Cole, though, believes that a top-four finish should be a basic requirement at Old Trafford.
“Manchester United should qualify for the top four season in, season out,” he added.
“It’s not about competing for top four, it’s about competing for the Premier League title. It is as simple as that.
“Sometimes we overlook that scenario when we think finishing in the top four is like winning a trophy.
“For Manchester United it shouldn’t be like winning a trophy. To win a trophy, you have to finish top.”
*Copy provided by Press Association Sport