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RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano has become Europe’s most in-demand defender

Watching Dayot Upamecano against Atletico Madrid left plenty to marvel at. He was quick, strong, assured in possession, didn’t give it away cheaply. He made Diego Costa effectively disappear. Here was a player at the top of his game. 

But to his suitors, it will have been a performance tinged with more than an ounce of regret.

Here was a player that up until a few weeks ago had just one year left on his deal at RB Leipzig. Teams like Arsenal were very interested but reportedly felt he was too expensive with a release clause of £54million. 

If he was expensive before then having signed a new deal through until 2023 it might make the revised figure much more difficult to stomach for those at the Emirates Stadium.   

Pundits, managers and team-mates are quickly running out of nicknames and superlatives for the Frenchman, born in Guinea Bissau. 

Many inside the Leipzig dressing room refer to him as ‘beast’ while former RB Leipzig director of football Ralf Rangnick once described him a ‘phenomenon of nature.’ 

After his masterclass against defensive kings Atletico Madrid on Thursday night, there is no escaping that Upamecano is the most wanted defender in Europe. 

Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli runs him close but at 29, he has eight years on Upamecano who, at 21, is reaching levels few saw him reaching when he joined for £9m at the age of 18. 

‘I feel right at home here in Leipzig – the overall package is perfect,’ he told the club’s website after signing his new deal. 

‘We had good conversations, which showed to me that extending my contract was the right decision for me to make. Our young and hungry team is part of an ambitious club.

‘I want to take the next step with Leipzig and reach our aims, because I’m convinced by the way we play our football. I have been in Leipzig for over three years and I have continued to improve alongside the team’s development.’

That next step was the last-four of the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. The next one is the final. And then, why not?

Against Atletico Madrid he walked away clutching with Man of the Match trophy and there were no arguments.   

Upamecano finished with a 100 per cent dribble and tackle success rate after 99 touches.

He had a 92 per cent passing accuracy just to add even more shine to his performance. It was mesmeric, the type of performance that left Gary Lineker, Jermaine Jenas and Rio Ferdinand marvelling.   

Jenas said: ‘When you look at Upamecano going up against Diego Costa today, it was like no point Costa even being there.

‘It looks so easy to him the game. He looks like he is playing with his mates and that’s when you know you’ve got a good player.’ 

He looks built for the Premier League, his size and speed a rare combination that few of his peers can boast. 

Manchester United and Manchester City have had a look at him but City recently made a move for £41m-rated Nathan Ake.  

The question now is how long can clubs bury their heads in the sand over the Leipzig star? 

At what point do teams reach deep into their pockets to pay whatever it takes to get a generational talent like Upamecano?  

First it was Costa and next it is Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in a semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain. 

Walk off the pitch that night as the best player and he really will be seen as must-have signing this summer. 

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