Soccer

‘He became a machine’ – Bayern star Upamecano ‘shy’ off pitch but a ‘beast’ on it, says ex-RB Salzburg manager Letsch

A man who coached the Frenchman when he was still learning his trade in Austria says his unique talent was clear to see from an early age

Dayot Upamecano is “shy” off the pitch but a “beast” on it according to ex-Red Bull Salzburg manager Thomas Letsch, who says the Bayern Munich star “became a machine” during his time with the Austrian club.

Upamecano has enjoyed a rapid ascent to the top of the game in recent years, establishing himself as one of the top defenders at RB Leipzig before joining six-time Champions League winners Bayern Munich.

Letsch is not surprised that the 22-year-old, who completed a €43 million (£37m/$51m) move to Allianz Arena earlier this summer, has come so far in such a short period of time, having first seen his unique talents up close at Salzburg between 2015 and 2017.

What’s been said?

Upamecano spent one-and-a-half seasons with the Austria-based outfit before moving to sister club Leipzig in Germany, and Letsch says he stood out instantly despite being an introverted character in the dressing room.

“Off the pitch, he was completely reserved and shy. He didn’t get a word out and looked down rather than in your eyes,” the former Salzburg boss has told Goal and SPOX. “On the pitch, however, he became a machine, a beast, a terrier. His speed, robustness and mentality were already very pronounced at the age of 16.”

Pressed on Upamecano’s most impressive performance with Salzburg, Letsch referenced his outing in the second leg of a UEFA Youth League second round tie against Besiktas in November 2015. 

“We lost 1-0 away and he wanted to win the second leg for us all by himself,” he added. “He literally ate up the opponents in the duels and scored to make it 2-1 himself [the final score was 5-1].

“That was the first time he showed what kind of player he can be and what mentality he has. That was absolutely impressive.”

Upamecano’s record at Leipzig

Upamecano arrived at Leipzig for €10m in January 2017, and went on to feature in 154 matches across all competitions for the club. The Frenchman also contributed four goals and three assists, while helping them earn a regular spot in the Champions League and challenge Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga table.

How did Upamecano fare on his Bayern debut?

Upamecano made his first competitive appearance for Bayern in their opening league match of the new season against Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday.

The towering centre-back was criticised for his erratic display in the 1-1 draw, but has since received backing from head coach Julian Nagelsmann.

“I don’t think the discussion about his performance is justified,” the Bayern boss said in his latest press conference. “He’s a young player who needs a bit of time to settle in.”

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