Barcelona have agreed terms with Samuel Umtiti over a new long-term contract, but the Catalans’ need to delay completion of the deal leaves the door open for Manchester United to make an audacious move.
The French defender is already tied to the Blaugrana until 2021 but his current terms include a €60 million buyout clause which the club are keen to raise as part of a new deal.
And while the two sides have come to an agreement over fresh terms, Barcelona have been forced to hold off completing the deal until July 1 due to the constraints of UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) laws.
Having splashed out a club-record €160m on the signing of Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool in January, Barca are not in a position to pay out on Umtiti’s new deal this season without breaking the artificial ceiling put in place by FFP.
As a result, they have come to a gentlemen’s agreement with Umtiti’s representatives that will see the already-negotiated terms being signed off on the first day of the 2018-19 financial season.
The same tactic was used by the leaders of La Liga in 2016 when agreeing a new contract with then-striker Neymar in January of that year ahead of the official signing of the deal the following July.
However, employing such an approach with Umtiti leaves Barca open to being usurped in the next four months as rival clubs have the opportunity to snap up the 24-year-old France international for €60m under the terms of his existing contract.
And that could leave the door open for United, who are thought to be on the lookout for defensive additions this summer.
While United would not be able to register Umtiti until July 1 themselves, Barcelona would be in no position to stop the Premier League club from agreeing a more lucrative package with the player ahead of a summer move so long as the English side meet the buyout figure.
Old Trafford supremo Jose Mourinho has reiterated on numerous occasions that he will not be asking the club’s money-makers to add any more forwards this summer following the January arrival of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal, with midfielders and defenders figuring higher on his priority list ahead of the 2018-19 season.
United have been widely linked with Umtiti in recent transfer windows, with the arrivals of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof since Mourinho took over at the Theatre of Dreams having proved insufficient in solving the club’s issues in their own half of the field.
And they may now be tempted into meeting the release clause in the centre-back’s existing deal, with a verbal promise and a handshake being all that Barcelona can offer in response until the beginning of July thanks to their huge purchase of Coutinho during the winter transfer window.