What Bayern will get from Upamecano after beating Europe’s elite to sign defender from RB Leipzig

several major European clubs looking for reinforcements in central defence, RB Leipzig’s central defender Diote Appamecano was the one many wanted.

Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich have all come forward for the arrival of the 22-year-old, who recently made his debut in France. And it was the reigning European champion who won, announcing Sunday that Upamecano will be given a five-year contract in the summer and will pay an exit clause of 42.5 million euros ($51 million).

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The decision is another example of how Bayern, playing in the Bundesliga, take over key players from one of their biggest domestic rivals. After winning the FIFA Club World Cup and winning six trophies in one go, Upamecano will be part of a team that needs little improvement. But one thing is certain: He has what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Here’s our reconnaissance report.

Where did he come from?

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Upamecano is a product of Valenciennes’ academy, but mainly due to his continued excellent performances for France in youth, he didn’t even get the chance to make his first-team debut before falling under the radar of Europe’s top clubs.

After a particularly impressive campaign at the European Under-17 Championship in the summer of 2015 – he was the best defender of the tournament for a long time – he moved to FC Salzburg for 2.2 million euros. Although he was courted by some of the better known clubs, he perfected his skills in Austria, believing that this was the best place for him to find his way in professional football.

He came to Austria at the age of 16 and was loaned to FC Liefering, Salzburg’s development team. He spent most of his first season in the second division before making two appearances in the first division at the end of the season.

After half a season in the Salzburg first team, he switched to his home club, Red Bull Leipzig, in January 2017 for a transfer fee of over 10 million euros. The Frenchman, who was already accustomed to Red Bull’s football, felt right at home in the German Bundesliga despite the obvious level shift and secured a starting place in his new team in no time.

Deyot Upamekano is one of the best young defenders. Photo: ANP Sport via Getty Images

Position

Although his reputation as Europe’s most coveted player is based on his league performances (over 100) as a central defender, the youngster is also capable – although perhaps not entirely at ease – of playing in defensive midfield and has done so on several occasions for Salzburg.

Technically and tactically, he should be good on the right side of the defence as well (of course, being on the right side makes him less suitable as a left back, but that doesn’t mean he’s not up to the challenge).

Upamecano recently played alongside Ibrahima Konate, a year younger and almost as impressive, as a left midfielder in Julian Nagelsmann’s back four. Last season, he sometimes played in the middle of the field in threes.

Strengths

It is therefore no surprise that the qualities with which Apamekano distinguished himself as a young player have also established his status among the European elite of young defenders: He is exceptionally fast and strong.

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He’s put up the third-best sprint in the Bundesliga this season (35.34 mph), but unlike most other center defenders, he’s not only fast when he’s driving, he’s also agile and quick in the corners (often the Achilles heel of defenders playing even at the highest level).

But Appamekano’s excellent physicality doesn’t stop there: It wins an impressive 70% of its air battles and is also very effective in individual defense. The Frenchman also became more comfortable with the ball at his foot: While he used to be prone to being careless under pressure, he is now confident enough to pick midfielders in central positions, often in tight spaces between opponents.

His ability to get the ball out of defence was confirmed in last December’s 3-3 draw at Bayern, while opportunities to score goals – especially in the finish – are becoming increasingly rare in his game.

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Vulnerabilities

The fact that Mr Upamecano is on almost all shortlists in Europe is not only a testament to his continuous improvement, but also shows how he continues to banish his personal flaws and tactical shortcomings from his game.

But as the 5-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford in October showed, there is still room for improvement. The way he made Mason Greenwood run blind to score the first goal and the way he captured the ball instead of dropping it deep, allowing Marcus Rashford to score in front of him to make it 3-0, shows that he is not ready yet.

Upamecano also seems too focused on the ball at times when delivering crosses, at the expense of a clear view of the players’ movements around the ball.

How will he fit in

The football training he received at Upamekano or RB Leipzig is comparable to the one he received at Bayern in the same league.

His pace is perfect for a team that wants to keep the pressure on when central defenders don’t have to worry about leaving space behind. But he also has ball quality and distribution skills that can be developed from the back-out side to the possession side.

Bayern Munich may be German, European and world champions, but Upamecano should be an immediate quality acquisition.

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