World Cup-winning France defender Samuel Umtiti will prepare for this year’s tournament in Italy instead of Barcelona after moving on loan to Lecce.
Barcelona said Thursday the newly promoted Serie A club had taken Umtiti for one season with no option to buy.
The loan deal is the latest move by Barcelona to try to comply with financial rules during its debt crisis and still be able to register new players.
The Spanish side has been unable to register Umtiti’s France teammate Jules Koundé since signing the defender from Sevilla last month for a reported fee of about 50 million euros ($50 million).
The 28-year-old Umtiti joined Barcelona six years ago from Lyon and has a contract through 2026. That deal was agreed in January which included taking a salary cut so Barcelona could register new signing Ferran Torres. Barcelona thanked Umtiti then for “his willingness and the affection that he has demonstrated towards the club.” He was a starter in central defense at the 2018 World Cup and scored in France’s 1-0 win over Belgium in the semifinals.
France is in a group with Australia, Denmark and Tunisia at the World Cup which starts Nov. 20 in Qatar.