Samuel Umtiti has denied that he considered leaving Barcelona earlier this year, saying that his priority was always to remain at the Camp Nou after signing a new five-year contract.
Manchester United were strongly linked with a move for Umtiti, who would have been available for the €60 million release clause written into the contract he signed from Lyon two years ago.
Umtiti, 24, fuelled the speculation in March when he refused to comment on reports he could move to Old Trafford. However, after committing his future to Barca until 2023, with his release clause rising to €500m, he said he never considered leaving.
“I was asked if I wanted to stay or go to [United] but I didn’t want to talk about that, above all because I was with the national team,” Umtiti explained at a news conference on Monday.
“I just said the word ‘joker.’ I don’t know how that word is interpreted [in Spain], but you can interpret it as you wish.
“The priority was to renew here at Barcelona, as I have done. It’s my home. It’s a dream to play here, with the best players at, for me, the best club in the world. I don’t see myself playing for another team.
“I am really happy here and I have everyone’s confidence, so I couldn’t leave. That’s it.”
Umtiti knocked back the claim that the negotiations over his new contract stalled because he was angling for more money, too.
— FC Barcelona 🏆🏆 (@FCBarcelona) June 4, 2018
“I’m not going to speak about the numbers, that’s not my problem,” he added. “I want to play football and win titles with Barcelona.
“I am playing for the best team in the world. I am not here for the money — it’s important but I am here to win trophies. I look at Andres Iniesta as an example. He’s won everything and I want to be the same.”
The France international also said a minor knee problem was behind a slump in his form late in the season, not the rumours about his future.
Umtiti joined Barca for €25m in 2016 and quickly established himself alongside Gerard Pique in the middle of the back four.
During his two seasons in Catalonia he has made 83 appearances in all competitions so tying him down to a new deal and increasing his release clause was one of the club’s primary objectives this summer.
Sergio Busquets is also in line for a new contract but Barcelona will now turn their attention to bringing in new players.
Antoine Griezmann is a target but Madrid-based Diario AS reported that he will turn down a move to Barca in order to remain at Atletico Madrid.
“I speak with Griezmann a lot but not about [his future],” Umtiti said. “We talk about food, PlayStation… about everything. But not about that.
“Griezmann’s a fantastic player and he could play for any team and he’d be more than welcome here. If he wants to come, it will be fantastic.”
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.