Umtiti spoke with the Catalan outlet L'Esportiu discussing his expectations at Barça, his friends, and his time at Lyon. You can read the interview in Catalan here.

What does being a part of Barça mean to you?

It’s the best club in the world. I’m proud to be here and of course I know that there will be a lot of competition for playing time, but I tell myself: “Man, you’re training and playing with the best in the world” and this is a stimulus to work even more, to progress and move up stages. Being here will allow me to evolve to another level.

What did your good friend Sébastien Flochon tell you when you signed for Barça?

(Smiles) He congratulated me and told me he was proud of me because I had achieved one of my dreams. We’ve known each other since we were kids and we played together in the youth teams in Lyon. It was a natural reaction, like the ones from the rest of my family and friends that are close to me. But he also warned me that I will have to keep working. This doesn’t stop here, it’s just the start.

Is your mother still not interested in football?

When I was a kid she didn’t follow it, but since a few years ago when I started with Lyon’s reserves team she started paying attention more and she’s in touch with what happens in this world.

What’s the importance of your big brother Yannick?

He has always had a great influence over me and now he manages my affairs. He’s the one I’ve worked with to get here.

And now he’s keeping your feet on the ground?

Totally. He’s the most important one in this. Even if you’re going through a moment of good form you shouldn’t believe you’re bigger than you are. Work is the only possible reward and it’s what puts you in your place. I always want more.

Did you note any differences between Ligue 1 and La Liga?

I can’t talk about La Liga until I’ve played more games, but it’s obvious that the Spanish league is more technical than the French one and in my country the tactical side has more weight and there’s less space.

And between Barça and Lyon?

There’s a lot of differences. Here there’s a media interest that multiplies everything 20 times over and you have to be mentally prepared to win everything. Coming second isn’t good enough.

Is it difficult to maintain the pleasure of playing for Barça with such a big media interest?

Barça is more of a center of attention than Lyon, that’s inevitable, but for me it’s easy to manage this. Maybe that’s a bit arrogant, but that’s how I feel. The city is perfect, the players and teammates are fantastic and all the ingredients needed to succeed are here.

It’s your first football experience away from Lyon. How are you managing the change?

Yes, I hadn’t left my city until now and it’s clear that it changes you. You leave your family and friends, but I’m not 10 years old, I’m 22 and one needs to grow up. This will make me develop as a football player and also as a person.

Will you live with some family here?

My brother Yannick will be here for a while, but I like having my own space. I’m someone who spends a lot of time at home.

Is your great technical ability an inheritance of the years in which you played as a forward or midfielder?

I don’t think so. Most of the things I’ve learned are thanks to the great coaches I’ve had in Lyon’s academy. They work on technique and game intelligence and that allowed me to get to a team like Barça.

Armand Garrido was one of the important coaches in your career and he’s sure you’ll be a success at Barça because of your ability to adapt and that you’ll be a starter soon. What do you think of that?

It would be great! I know that he has a lot of faith in me and he knows me well, but I shouldn’t skip any steps. Everything has its own cycle. You have to move on progressively. If my time to play comes I’d be pleased to do it, but I’m here to learn from the ones around me.

If three months ago someone told you that at the end of the summer you’d be a Barça player…

I would have laughed because it was a dream. But football moves very fast, like we saw this summer, first with the national team and then with Barça.

Crazy what happened with France! You went from being a backup to being a starter in the last games of the Euros and now this generation that won the U20 World Cup in Turkey in 2013 is taking center stage. Is this your moment?

All of the guys in that team have gathered great experience after winning that World Cup. Most of them are starters at their club teams and we have a group with a lot of talent.

A lot of talent! Digne, Kondogbia, Pogba, you…

Yes, but these players are the first ones who are aware of the fact that talent alone does not get you to your objectives. You have to work, but yes, in some way, the emergence of the 1993 generation has started.

What’s your personal objective for this season?

I have many, but my custom is to keep them to myself and talk about them at the end of the season.

If I ask you about your teammates in defense, what will you tell me about Piqué?

For me he’s been one of the best central defenders in the world for years and he has an efficiency and consistency that are amazing.

And Mathieu?

For me Jérémy is one of the best central defenders, even if people don’t talk about him a lot. If you get the chance to play for Barça you’re one of the best.

What about Mascherano?

He’s a leader thanks to the hierarchy that he has on the pitch. I am lucky to be able to share a dressing room with magnificent players.

From defense we move to forwards. Is it stimulating to have Messi and Luis Suárez as opponents in training?

Training with them is like playing a real game. They all make me improve in training. This was one of the fundamental factors of me coming here. Training with these types of players makes you grow to the maximum of your possibilities.

And how does the ball move in training?

It moves so fast! And what surprises me the most if that there’s always a player in a precise place. We could even play with our eyes closed and we wouldn’t make mistakes. This is what impressed me the most.

If you had to pick a trophy…

Honestly, I came here to win everything. I don’t prefer a trophy or a cup above another. I want them all and we have the team and the potential to do that.

Barça was looking for a forward to sign. Would you have liked that to be Lacazette?

(Laughs) I would have liked it a lot. I would have been the happiest one in the dressing room, I’m sure. I have a good relationship with him.

Abidal is one of the players the fans love the most. Some people see you as the new Abidal. Do you like the comparison?

I’m proud to be compared to him, but we’re different. He had some qualities and I have others, but I would like it if I could leave a mark here like he did.

Do you need to be super talented to play for Barça?

I’m not super talented, all I’ve achieved has been thanks to work. This is the only secret to success.

Who helps you keep your feet on the ground?

My mom and the people around me are the ones that help me and have always done so. I know that I’m a professional football player and that gives me a certain notoriety and status, but I want to keep being myself. Outside of the pitch I have no need to show that I’m a footballer. This is my job, but when I go out on the street I’m a person like any other.

Your group of friends are mostly former teammates from Lyon’s academy. A lot of them didn’t become professionals. Are you still in contact with them?

Yes, a lot. I talk to them on the phone, we exchange messages constantly and some of them came to visit me here in Barcelona. I’ve kept in touch and I will continue that because they’re a part of my life. After my family, my friends are a pillar in my life.

You left Cameroon when you were 2 years old and you grew up in a family of immigrants. Did that force you to prove yourself more?

Personally, I didn’t have that feeling. But my mother always insisted on the spirit on work, in pushing myself more than the others if I wanted to be someone in life. My family always reminded me that with work I will create a path for myself and get rewards. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the fact that I was an immigrant, but I can tell you that I always worked more than others.

What do you think about racism in football? I say it especially regarding the racist chants that were heard in El Molinón against Iñaki Williams.

These things shouldn’t exist at a football game or in life. In the world you can find everything and unfortunately there are still people like this. There’s nothing we can do, but I’m comforted by the fact that it’s a minority and you have to separate yourself from that.

What did the coach ask of you?

To be confident and play as I know. To not get stuck in my head.

Who was your idol as a kid?

I always liked offensive players. The ones who left the biggest impression on me were Ronaldinho and Zidane. They are the players I idolized as a kid. They were the best.

When did Barça appear in your life?

My memories are of the time when Rijkaard was a coach. I’ve always been attracted to Barça because of its players and the mentality of always wanting to win. It’s a club that ties will with my personality.

And what was your feeling the first time you played at the Camp Nou?

When I got back from vacations I had the possibility to visit the stadium and I didn’t want to go. I wanted the first time I visited the stadium to be when I played there.


No, I did it because of that feeling of new, of emotion, of finding the energy of such a big stadium. If I had seen it before I would have lost that moment.

And what did you feel?

It was an unique moment. It’s a magnificent stadium, big and beautiful and I was proud to be able to play here for the first time, but like I said, I know that this is the start and that this is just beginning.

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