Clubs, domestically and abroad, have a strange love-hate relationship with RB Leipzig.
They go against everything German teams traditionally stand for. They’re viewed as a soulless enterprise with no identity and no history in a league, and country, which prides itself on its heritage. Yet countless top teams in the Bundesliga are benefitting from the franchise-owned marketing vehicle.
Similarly, European teams resent having to negotiate with Ralf Rangnick, with the club’s head of sport sticking to the release clauses in his player’s contracts. Yet reports claim the top clubs are regularly looking to do business with RB. And this doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.
According to the Daily Mirror, Chelsea are interested in RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano. The Blues aren’t the first Premier League side to show interest in the Frenchman. Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have been perpetually linked with the 21-year-old since he made the switch from RB Salzburg to Leipzig back in 2017.
Long on the radar of Europe’s elite, Upamecano started his career as a youth player at home-town club Évreux before moving to the then Ligue 1 side Valenciennes. From there, he was picked up by the Red Bull system and signed for their Austrian side, Red Bull Salzburg, in 2015.
Upamecano made his professional debut for their feeder club, FC Liefering, in the Austrian second division making 16 appearances during the 2015/16 season, also making his debut for Salzburg in March 2016.
It wasn’t long before the head of the Red Bull herd came calling, not too far away in Leipzig. Upamecano immediately settled into the defence and, despite his age, looked like a seasoned veteran.
Injuries plagued his 2018/19 campaign but he’s been a revelation this season under new manager Julian Nagelsmann. He looks better than ever.
He’s much more proactive this term, recovering the ball 9.21 times per 90. Prior to this season, his Bundesliga average was 6.61. Furthermore, Upamecano is winning a higher percentage of his aerial duels, playing and completing more passes.
A bid in the region of £50million will reportedly be required to land him. While it may seem steep, it is worth noting Arsenal parted with £27million for William Saliba. The 18-year-old has a lot of potential but none of Upamecano’s experience. The fee being mooted for the RB Leipzig man could be viewed as great value for money given the current state of the market.
Chelsea need to revamp their squad – especially their defence. Upamecano would immediately give the Blues a different look in their defensive third.
“I watch Varane a lot and definitely try to learn from him, but I don’t want to play exactly like him,” Upamecano said.
“Players have to find their own style if they are going to be remembered.”
This style helps make him effective in one-on-one battles when the defence is exposed on the counter-attack. A vital skill to have in an attacking, possession-based team.
Aggressive and proactive with or without the ball, Upamecano will move into midfield in possession. He tries to avoids easy pass to his centre-back partner, looking instead for a full-back on either side, a midfielder, or even a forward.
Playing mostly on the left side of defence despite being right-footed, Upamecano is comfortable in a back three or four which makes him suitable for many tactical systems, and this will suit Chelsea.
Sylvain Ripoll, the France Uder-21 manager, has heaped praise on Upamecano in the past, saying: “Dayot is already very mature. He’s among the most reliable defenders in the Bundesliga and practically the leader of the Leipzig defence.”
Upamecano won’t single-handedly transform the Chelsea backline but he’ll have a big influence in shoring up what is a leaky and inconsistent defence. The Blues have conceded 39 in 28 matches in the Premier League – no-one in the top ten has shipped more.
Jadon Sancho, Wilfried Zaha and Moussa Dembélé have all been linked with summer moves to Stamford Bridge. All would be exciting additions. But it’s Upamecano who could make the biggest impact, and that’s why he should top the club’s summer wishlist.