Julian Nagelsmann has backed Dayot Upamecano (l.) to become even more like Virgil van Dijk (r.) - by adding further goals to his game. - © imago images
Julian Nagelsmann has backed Dayot Upamecano (l.) to become even more like Virgil van Dijk (r.) - by adding further goals to his game. - © imago images
bundesliga

Dayot Upamecano on Virgil van Dijk's trajectory says Julian Nagelsmann

Julian Nagelsmann has backed RB Leipzig defensive rock Dayot Upamecano to become even more like Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk - by adding further goals to his game.

Upamecano got Leipzig's equaliser in their 2-1 win over Hertha Berlin on Matchday 5, showing smart footwork inside the area and smashing home like a striker after Willi Orban had headed against the bar.

It was the 21-year-old's first goal for the Bundesliga leaders since May 2018, when he also netted against Hertha. Leipzig head coach Nagelsmann thinks that the classy French centre-back can emulate Dutch international Van Dijk, who is widely regarded as the best defender in the world game.

Watch: Check out Upamecano's latest stunner against Hertha

"We all know that he's an outstanding defender and one of the top players in his position in Europe," Nagelsmann said of Upamecano. "What distinguishes a Virgil van Dijk from him is that he has been scoring six or seven goals over several seasons. When [Upamecano] manages a similar rate, then he'll be even more valuable to us than he already is."

Upamecano, who hit a top speed of 21.9mph against Hertha, scored three times in the Bundesliga in the 2017/18 season before drawing a blank since.

There are signs that he is becoming more of a goal threat though, with his strike against Hertha one of three attempts he had in the game. It also came off the back of another goal for France in their 4-2 win over Croatia in September.

Like Upamecano under Nagelsmann at Leipzig, Virgil van Dijk (r.) flourished at Liverpool under former Borussia Dortmund head coach Jürgen Klopp (l.) until he recently got injured. - Peter Byrne via www.imago-images.de/imago images/PA Images

"Upa is very keen to get goals," Nagelsmann said. "He's working a lot on that, including on his heading. But it doesn't just depend on technique - it's also to do with adaptation and timing."

As well as building moves from the heart of defence with his calm play on the ball, however, preventing opposition players from scoring will remain Upamecano's main role - and one he is particularly good at.

Leipzig have conceded only three times in seven competitive fixtures this season in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup, and UEFA Champions League. They'll be hoping to maintain their unbeaten start when they take on Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Champions League group stage on Wednesday.