Last summer RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano was the subject of significant transfer interest from Arsenal.
Despite Arsenal’s best efforts to bring him to the Emirates, the Frenchman remained in Germany with RB Leipzig holding firm on their valuation.
However, with summer fast approaching and just one year remaining on his current contract, Upamecano is once again being linked with a move away from RB Leipzig, which could see him take the next step in what looks set to be a long and successful career for the 21-year-old.
Speaking in March, Upamecano confirmed he would talk with his agents and family about his future at the end of the season, adding fuel to the rumours of an impending departure.
“I feel very good at RB Leipzig. I like my team-mates, the staff and my club,” he said. “For the moment, I am still under contract until 2021. I am going to have to continue to train well and play matches.
“Even though I know that there are clubs that want me, that is certain, I am keeping my feet on the ground.
“We will discuss my future at the end of the season with my agents and my family.”
Arsenal are not the only team being linked with a summer move for Upamecano, but which outfit will represent the right switch for the defender? We’ve assessed the options that could be available to him when the transfer window opens.
Dayot Upamecano next club options
Dream: Real Madrid
Although many have tipped Upamecano for a move to England, his name has also been mentioned alongside some of the biggest names in Spanish football, including Real Madrid.
Los Blancos are going through something of a transitional period, looking to add youth to an ageing squad in an attempt to build a Galacticos 3.0. Last summer saw Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic brought into the attacking ranks, with Ferland Mendy joining at left-back and Eder Militao in central defence – but the Brazilian is yet to impress.
According to AS, Zinedine Zidane has picked out Upamecano as his number one target at centre-back, which would see him replace Militao as first-choice backup for Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane before eventually being given a chance to take over from the Spaniard when he retires. In Varane and Upamecano, Real Madrid would have an excellent centre-back pairing for at least the next five years, with the former turning 27 in April.
And a move to Real Madrid could be on the mind of Upamecano, who previously admitted he dreamed of joining the club – as well as Barcelona and Manchester United – when growing up.
“When you’re young, you dream of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United,” he said in 2018.
“I’m proud of myself, very happy. I have to continue in this manner. Then I can look higher. For the moment, my preference is Leipzig. After that, we’ll see.”
Speaking of Barcelona, the La Liga leaders are also reportedly interested in adding Upamecano to their squad this summer, as part of an overhaul to their defence.
Despite topping La Liga table, the Blaugrana have struggled defensively, conceding 31 goals in 27 games – only Real Sociedad (33) have let in more among teams in the top six.
Barcelona have been searching for a new centre-back since last summer and reportedly chased Matthijs de Ligt before losing out to Juventus, but are ready to go again this year. Quique Setien‘s current centre-back options are Samuel Umtiti, Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique but the former has been linked with a move away, while the latter turned 33 in February.
Barcelona do also have Jean-Clair Todibo currently on loan at Schalke, but his deal includes an option to buy which would leave the Blaugrana incredibly short next season – although he did make three appearances this season before his move to Germany.
But in Upamecano, Barcelona would be able to start their rebuild at the back, and it would certainly be a statement signing.
Squawka Suggests? Real Madrid
Although both sides are certainly undergoing rebuilds at the back, Real Madrid appear to be better equipped for the future. For Los Blancos, Upamecano is the final piece of their puzzle while with Barcelona his arrival would need to be complemented by more defensive signings – which isn’t guaranteed.
Then, there’s the added link of Upamecano sharing an agent with Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos. If both parties want this deal, it appears to make sense (should the numbers also stack up).
Realistic: Bayern Munich
Being an impressive young player from the Bundesliga, it’s no surprise that Bayern Munich have been linked with a move for Upamecano. But rather than just killing the competition, this is a move that ticks a lot of boxes for both parties.
Bayern Munich look set to allow Jerome Boateng to leave the club in the summer as they aim to lower the average age of their squad, as shown by their recent interest in the likes of Leroy Sane, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Sergino Dest.
And Upamecano falls into that category. Despite playing like an experienced centre-back, Upamecano is still only 21 and won’t turn 22 until October, meaning he is yet to hit his peak. As he grows closer to that peak, Upamecano’s price will only rise, and Bayer may want to avoid another big price tag having paid £68m for Lucas Hernandez in the summer – their record transfer fee.
And Hernandez has not played too much in 2019/20 as he has been suffering with injury problems, which will only add to the skepticism in regards to sanctioning such another high transfer fee.
The potential arrival of Upamecano would allow Bayern to line up with a more natural defence, with David Alaba moving across to left-back and Alphonse Davies allowed to play further up the pitch – although he has done a spectacular job this season.
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Realistic: Manchester United
The third dream side Upamecano mentioned, Manchester United, aren’t at the level they once were, but have recently shown their pulling power with the signing of Bruno Fernandes.
For quite some time, United have needed to undergo a rebuild, struggling since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. No United manager has stayed long enough to be able to put their mark on the team, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears to be locked in for the future – allowing him to start planning ahead.
During the Norwegian’s tenure, United’s defence has already been bolstered by the signing of Harry Maguire and only three teams have conceded fewer goals than the Red Devils‘ 30 in the Premier League this season.
But there is still work to be done to improve that further and Upamecano would represent a good option, especially in playing the ball out from the back as he averages 65.88 successful passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga this season – better than any United defender.
Squawka Suggests? Manchester United
A Bayern move for Upamecano appears unlikely with the club expected to deem his £55m release clause too high given their recent rack record for spending. But even if they do go for the centre-back, United might just be the more eye-catching option.
Although some may feel United’s project is just getting started, the Red Devils are in a good position, and their fight up the Premier League table would allow Upamecano to grow – whereas a move to Bayern would see the defender go straight to the top of German football without a challenge.
Last summer Arsenal appeared to be favourites for the signing of Upamecano, but as more teams get linked, their chances of securing the centre-back dwindle.
After missing out on Upamecano, Arsenal signed William Saliba and David Luiz to bolster their defence, but the former was sent back on loan to St Etienne, ready to return next season. However, their defensive signings, which also included Kieran Tierney and Cedric – in January – have scarcely helped Arsenal in their fight for the top four.
In fact, they are worse off than many expected and currently sitting ninth in the Premier League and fighting for a Europa League spot and on their third manager of the season. Arsenal do still need defensive reinforcements and are expected to return in their interest for Upamecano, which would be a major coup should Mikel Arteta pull it off.
Only Pablo Mari (71) has completed more passes per 90 minutes among Arsenal defenders than Upamecano this season, although the Spaniard has made just one Premier League appearance. Upamecano does beat every Arsenal defender for tackles averaging 2.19 per 90, with Calum Chambers the Gunners’ highest at 2.12.
Wildcard: Manchester City
United are not the only Manchester club interested in signing Upamecano, with Manchester City also joining a long list of potential suitors.
City’s defence of their Premier League title this season has been pretty disastrous, with Pep Guardiola’s side currently 25 points behind Liverpool.
They do remain in second, and rank nowhere near as badly as the title defences of Chelsea in 2015/16 and Leicester in 2016/17, but City’s fall has come as a kick in the teeth to those who expected the club to dominate English football. After all, this was the side that won 198 points over two seasons to secure back-to-back titles, becoming the first club to retain the Premier League since Manchester United in 2009.
There have been quite a few problems for City, including wastefulness in front of goal on occasion, but the biggest is their defence. Despite conceding only 31 goals – the fifth-best record in the Premier League – City have looked incompetent at the back at times and injuries have often forced them to field midfielders at centre-back.
John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have failed to impress while Aymeric Laporte’s season has been disrupted by injury, although the latter is expected to be first-choice centre-back. And bringing Upamecano in to partner him could be the move to put City back on the right track.
Squawka Suggests? Manchester City
There really is only one choice here, with City needing reinforcements at the back and more likely to match RB Leipzig’s valuation of Upamecano.
Although Arsenal also need the reinforcements, the challenge of battling for Europa League football may not appeal to Upamecano, unless he views the Gunners as a stepping stone.