With several top clubs in Europe keen to bolster the heart of their defenses, RB Leipzig center-back Dayot Upamecano was the one many wanted.
Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich were all heavily linked to a move for the 22-year-old who recently made his senior debut for France. And it was the reigning European champions who won and announced on Sunday that there was a contract to sign a five-year contract for Upamecano this summer. A release clause worth 42.5 million euros ($ 51 million) is reported to be paid.
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN + (US only)
– Bundesliga on ESPN +: Stream LIVE games and reruns (USA only)
The move is another example of how Bundesliga giants Bayern are recruiting one of the main players in their domestic rivals. Having just won the FIFA Club World Cup and having won six trophies at the same time, Upamecano is becoming a team that hardly needs improvement. One thing is certain, however: He has the tools to be successful at the highest level. Here is our scouting report.
Where does he comes from?
Upamecano is a product of the Valenciennes Academy but largely thanks to consistent excellence for France in youth, he didn't even get the chance to make his first-team debut before being on the radar of top European clubs.
After a particularly impressive U17 European Championship in summer 2015 – he was by far the top defender of the tournament – he moved to FC Salzburg for 2.2 million euros. Despite being courted by more prominent clubs, he wisely chose to hone his skills in Austria as he felt it would give him a better path to senior football.
After coming to Austria at the age of 16, he was loaned to FC Liefering, the Salzburg development team, and spent most of his debut season in the second division before playing two league games for the senior national team towards the end of the campaign .
After half a season with the first team of FC Salzburg, he moved to Red Bull colleague Leipzig in January 2017 for a fee of more than 10 million euros. The Frenchman was already well used to the Red Bull way of playing football, despite the apparent rise in competition in the German Bundesliga, he was instantly at home and wasted no time securing a starting place for his new team.
Dayot Upamecano is one of the best young defenders. Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images
Although his reputation as one of the most sought-after players in Europe has been built on the basis of more than 100 league games as a center-back, the youngster is also able, albeit not entirely satisfied, to act as a defensive midfielder on a few occasions for FC Salzburg.
Technically and tactically, he should also be fairly good at going in as a right full-back (obviously, his right foot is less suitable as a left-back, although that doesn't mean he couldn't face the challenge, good.)
Recently, Upamecano was used as a left center-back in Julian Nagelsmann's back four, in collaboration with Ibrahima Konate (who is a year younger and almost as impressive). He started occasionally in the middle of the last three seasons.
Unsurprisingly, Upamecano's traits as a youth player have cemented his status among Europe's young elite defenders: he's exceptionally fast and powerful.
Tor-Kristian Karlsen is a Norwegian soccer scout and manager and former managing director and sports director of AS Monaco. He will write regularly for ESPN about the football business and the scouting process.
This season he recorded the third fastest sprint speed in the Bundesliga (35.34 km / h), but unlike most other central defenders, he is not only fast when he gets going, but also agile and fast in corners (often the Achilles heel of) even the defenders who play at the highest level.)
However, the fine physical properties of Upamecano don't stop with the pace. He has the edge in an impressive 70% of his dogfights and is efficiently assertive in defensive one-on-one challenges. The Frenchman has also felt more comfortable with the ball at his feet: while he used to be occasionally sloppy under pressure, he is now confident enough to pick midfielders in central positions, often by finding tight gaps between oncoming opponents.
His ability to get the ball out of defense was shown in the 3: 3 draw at Bayern last December, while the occasional aimless forward clumping of the ball – especially when closing – is increasingly rare in his game.
After their sixth trophy in the last 12 months, Bayern Munich are number one in Shaka's most recent power rankings.
The fact that Upamecano was on pretty much every shortlist in Europe is not only evidence of his steady improvement, but also shows how he keeps removing personal mistakes and tactical flaws from his game.
However, as the 5-0 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford in October shows, there is still room for improvement in reading the game. The way he let Mason Greenwood in for the opener on his blind side and the way he walked to the ball instead of falling deep, which resulted in Marcus Rashford hitting the ball 3-0 in front of him, shows that he was still not finished article.
At times, Upamecano can appear too focused on the ball when using flanks, at the expense of a clear picture of the movement of the players around it.
How it fits in
Upamecano will benefit from the football training he received from RB Leipzig in order to meet the requirements of playing in the same league for Bayern.
His pace is ideal for a team that prefers high pressure and where the central defenders aren't afraid to leave space. But he also has the quality of the ball and the distribution skills that he can build from behind in a possession-oriented team.
Bayern Munich may be champions in Germany, Europe and the world, but Upamecano should prove to be an immediate quality boost.