In Collaboration with Audemars Piguet
Earlier this summer, SWM flew to Catalonia for a world exclusive photoshoot and interview with FC Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti at AP House, Audemars Piguet’s boutique space reserved for their most important clients.
Located on the luxurious Passeig de Gràcia, AP House features an entertainment area and bar, merging the finest contemporary architecture with jaw-dropping design to immerse clients in the cultural universe of Audemars Piguet.
It was a fitting location to spend some time with Samuel, as we discussed the lifestyle of a professional footballer, his plans for the future, and the highs and lows of an already illustrious career.
Born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Samuel Yves Um Titi, known as Samuel Umtiti, is a French international footballer who plays as a centre-back for Spanish giants Barcelona. Since making his breakthrough at Lyon back in 2012, Samuel has enjoyed a hugely successful career in a relatively short period of time winning an impressive 10 trophies at club and international level. And while he admits he could never have imagined achieving so much so soon, he believes a part of his subconscious had always dreamed of playing for the world’s greatest teams in the top competitions.
“When I started playing football I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to play,” says Samuel. In the first instance, I only wanted to play professionally and that was my main goal, but as I grew up I started to enjoy watching the big teams playing. I first started watching Barcelona at quite a young age and it became a dream for me to play for them one day.”
Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian lyricist, once said ‘life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen at once’ and in this case never has a truer word been spoken. In 2016, Samuel’s dream of playing for Barcelona became a reality when he joined the Catalan giants for a fee of €25 million. Just two years later, he was selected by Didier Deschamps for France’s World Cup squad in Russia, where he would go on to win the most prestigious prize of all. It’s the one trophy that every footballer on the planet dreams of winning, and Samuel admits that although he always had high aspirations, he could never have imagined winning the World Cup so soon in his career.
“I always had the dream of winning the World Cup but it seemed so far away,” he says. “I thought it would take years to even get close to the trophy. There are so many talented players in France so I always believed we would win it one day, but I thought the process would take longer than it did.”
“To have gained the chance to be a part of the team in 2018 and go on to win the World Cup is incredible and something I’ll never forget.”
What next for a footballer who’s won the World Cup and enjoyed continued success with one of the world’s biggest clubs? Having already achieved so much in the game, it could be difficult for a player like Samuel to find new objectives and greater challenges. But Samuel admits that as a world-class athlete, you never lose the desire to compete to the best of your ability. In his eyes, there are so many competitions still to win and one prize in particular, that he has his eyes on.
“It’s no secret that winning the World Cup is the most important achievement in the football world – it’s the top,” he says. But as a footballer, I am a competitor and there are so many other competitions to win, and every season the objective remains the same; to win as many trophies as possible. Even if I have already won the World Cup, I still have to set objectives for myself and at Barcelona, there are so many to focus on. For example, the La Liga trophy, and of course the Champions League that I haven’t won yet. For me, there is one more dream that I would love to accomplish, and that is to win the Champions League.”
When you’re consistently winning trophies and playing for a team like Barcelona, fans can have particularly high expectations, especially in footballing nations like France and Spain. But the fans aren’t the only source of pressure for a professional footballer. Nowadays, the world’s top players have some of the highest standards in professional sport. We continue to learn about the pressures that footballers face on a daily basis, and it’s clear now that the desire to win can have adverse effects on a player’s mental health and well-being. But Samuel likes to look at pressure differently, preferring to use it as a tool to remain relaxed and focused on the challenge at hand.
“At big clubs like Barcelona you expect pressure,” he says. “But every player feels it differently – I always have the mentality to win so for me it’s a normal feeling. It’s actually a good thing for me as it’s the pressure that helps me progress as a player in every game and every season. It gives you the key to stay at the top level, so it’s an important pressure that gives you the craving to do more.”
Samuel understands the importance of performing at the highest level as well as anyone, and after a string of injuries over the last two years he’s been working tirelessly to get back on the pitch. Hard work and staying strong mentally are two of the most important factors in a quick recovery, but it’s not the only thing that can have a significant impact on health and well-being. In recent years, there has been a spike in veganism across the UK, USA, and parts of Europe, as we learn more and more about the wide range of benefits associated with the change in lifestyle. It’s become a popular choice for several reasons, including the unfair treatment of animals, weight issues, and digestive intolerances, but in Samuel’s case, worrying blood test results had attracted the attention of club doctors.
“It’s not easy, because when you’re a player you never imagine that you will have injuries that block your progress or stop you from following your path,” he says. “You have to adapt and stay strong in your mind. In football, it’s not always beautiful – there are moments in your career when injuries will come and you’ll feel lonely, but you have to work harder than everyone to come back. After my injury, I had inflammation in my body so I was searching everywhere for treatment and that’s when I realised that reducing my consumption of certain aliments could help my health. My doctors and specialists advised that I stop consuming meat and products from animal origins and after two weeks the inflammation was improving and I felt so much better, so I decided to continue. It was tough in the beginning – I was feeling really tired, but my body just needed time to get used to it and little by little I realised that I was feeling better and my health was improving and now I feel less tired, my recovery is faster and I am full of energy in the morning. Some people will say that when you are vegan you can have more injuries but on the contrary, I have had no injury problems since I turned fully vegan.”
By following his new diet and months of consistent hard work and rehabilitation, Samuel came back stronger than ever last season.He’d managed to work his way back into the starting 11 and was beginning to find his form, making 18 appearances in all competitions including La Liga and the Champions League. But in March 2020, professional football and most of the world came to a standstill as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe and put a halt to Samuel’s return.
“Of course it was annoying that we had to stop playing games, but that is life and there’s nothing we can do about it,” says Samuel. “There were much bigger problems than that. Personally, life didn’t change much for me because I’m someone who just likes to hang out at home and not go out too much, so being confined to the house didn’t disturb me too much. My sisters have normal jobs and live on normal payrolls so I know how much COVID has impacted everyone, so I always keep my feet grounded even though I’m playing football which is a completely different world. I have been touched because some people I know really well have lost their jobs and it makes me realise even more that we are so lucky as professional footballers.”
As someone who likes to share his wealth and give back, Samuel is heavily involved in the community and works on a number of projects to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Values are hugely important to Samuel and his family, and he wants to show the world how powerful it is to help others and build stronger communities and societies for all. Growing up in Cameroon and subsequently France, helping others was considered a primordial trait, and the selflessness his mother showed throughout his younger years has only furthered his desire to contribute.
“Everyone knows me as a footballer and a competitor but I would also like that people could see another side of my personality,” he says. I am generous and I have been educated to help and lend a hand wherever I can. My mom was really generous, she thought about others before herself and I have kept this in myself. I would like to launch a charity in France and in Cameroon as I want to help people – I have so many projects in mind, but with time I will know better what I’d like to do. I really want to help and I am not only talking about financial help, but about time as I think it’s important to give time and presence to people. In Africa, we really need it. With the power of football I think there are so many things that we can do to make a difference and give children the opportunities to succeed. I would like to develop this idea in the near future and help sick children, and also children who don’t have the possibility to study like we do here in Europe.”
It has been five years since Samuel first set foot in the city of Barcelona – a city that is home to some of the world’s finest restaurants, a vibrant nightlife, and rich cultural heritage. But Samuel admitted that he’s a home bird, preferring to live a simple and healthy life without the need for an ostentatious or extravagant lifestyle that has become synonymous with professional athletes.
“I’ve been living here in Barcelona for five years now, but to be honest I don’t really head out in the city all too often,” says Samuel. I like to spend my time at home, train a lot and get as much rest as possible. I love to sleep and I think it’s important for a footballer to relax, so I like taking my dogs out for walks. A big passion of mine is music, and I have a few things in mind that I would like to learn – I would love to be able to play the guitar or piano one day. Music is so beautiful that it is on morning, afternoon and evening in my house. I like all genres; reggaeton, easy-listening, and rap music – it all just depends on my mood in that moment.”
Samuel is one of those sporting superstars who has become known for his sense of style. From contemporary fashion to streetwear, his creative instinct has garnered the attention of fans and fashion enthusiasts all over the world. It’s a huge part of the Frenchman’s life, and he admitted one of his ambitions in life outside of football is to disrupt the fashion industry by creating a truly unique fashion brand that reflects his style, but also tells a story.
“I love fashion and it’s something I’m really interested in,” he says. “I am always searching for new collections, new designers, styles and brands. I love to be inspired and vary my fashion style on a daily basis, because different things suit different people, so I like to try out new styles and see how well it suits me and my own style. With social media, it’s easy to find inspiration as we can see all the emerging brands and out of curiosity I like to talk to the creators and founders to learn as much as I can. I like to know what kind of fabric they use, where the clothes are made, how they have started their brand and the story behind the brand and how they came to this point.”
A hobby or passion can often translate into a successful career outside of football, and Samuel is considering his own future in the fashion industry. He admitted it wasn’t something that he was planning on pursuing any time soon, as he reflects on how he will create a brand that is truly unique and special. For now, his focus remains on his playing career and working hard to deliver world-class performances week in, week out at club level, and on the international stage.
“I’m not thinking about life after football,” says Samuel. “I love fashion and I don’t want to wait until after my career, but I always had the idea of becoming a coach once I retire. I am the type of person who analyses a lot before I act. I like to do things correctly and not too fast, taking the time to make sure every decision is the correct one. I would love to start a career in fashion, as it is something that I love and I am always looking at how people are inspired so that one day I can build my own brand. I don’t want to create a quick brand because I have a name and think that because of that, people will buy it. I’ve always said to myself, ‘whenever you do something new, make sure you do it to the best of your ability.’ I want to take the time to build a quality brand that people will like not only for two weeks but long term. I want to put all the chances on my side, so when I’m ready I will start.
“I take inspiration from the designers, but mainly from the collections. Sometimes a designer can do an amazing collection and the next one might not be so good.
“I want to create something that looks like me but is also really different to the other brands out there – I want to find this little detail that makes the brand different. Every designer has his own style, and that’s why I got inspired by it all – I think it’s important to know where the clothes come from but I think a lot of brands don’t think like that. I want my own brand to be aware of that and create something unique, but we don’t know what the future holds for us, maybe it will be a career in the world of fashion for me, maybe not.”
Audemars Piguet has become one of the world’s most sought-after luxury brands, know for combining unique design, expert craftsmanship and high-quality materials to create industry-leading, luxurious watches. The brand was founded in 1875 when childhood friends Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet re-connected in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, home to some of the world’s most famous Swiss watch manufacturers. Both Audemars and Piguet were from watchmaking backgrounds, creating complex watch movements for the likes of Tiffany & Co. and specialising in the regulation of watch movements. In the ‘70s the brand launched the Royal Oak collection, propelling them to unparalleled success in the industry and establishing Audemars Piguet as one of the leading luxury manufacturers in the world. Today, the brand is worn by celebrities, footballers, and influential figures all over the world. Their watches have become iconic, and synonymous with a lifestyle that’s reserved for the worlds elite.
“I love clothes but I also love watches, they’re an important accessory nowadays,” says Samuel.
“The watch you wear is a good indication of the person you are.”
“That’s why there are certain watch brands that I like, and others that aren’t for me, but Audemars Piguet is a brand that suits me and my style and I love their watches.”
The future is exciting for Samuel Umtiti on and off the pitch. SWM can’t wait to see what’s in store for the World Cup winner and look forward to working with both Samuel and Audemars Piguet in the future.