New RB Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch (l.) sees huge potential in Dayot Upamecano successor Mohamed Simakan (r.). - © imago
New RB Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch (l.) sees huge potential in Dayot Upamecano successor Mohamed Simakan (r.). - © imago

"Mohamed Simakan a perfect fit for RB Leipzig" - Jesse Marsch talks up Dayot Upamecano's successor

Jesse Marsch is confident Mohamed Simakan has what it takes to fill the boots of Dayot Upamecano at the heart of the RB Leipzig defence in the season ahead.

Simakan enjoyed a breakout campaign at Strasbourg in 2020/21, with Leipzig confirming his transfer back in March - a month after Upamecano had agreed to join record champions Bayern Munich.

The 21-year-old defender reported for pre-season training at the start of July, and is set to make his Leipzig debut in a summer friendly against AZ Alkmaar on Saturday.

Watch: It's a new era for RB Leipzig under Jesse Marsch in 2021/22

"The whole club has a very positive impression of Mo after his first few weeks here," Marsch told kicker ahead of his first outing since succeeding Julian Nagelsmann as Leipzig coach.

"I think he's a great guy. He asks the right questions, he always wants to learn, he's very hardworking and has a really good mentality. He's fast, very aggressive and has a real footballing brain.

"With his talent and his mentality, he has a lot of potential. He's the perfect fit for our playing style."

Standing at 6'2" - an inch taller than Upamecano - Simakan broke into the Strasbourg first team as a right-back, but made the bulk of his 38 Ligue 1 appearances at centre-back. He was voted Strasbourg's Player of the Month three times in the first four months of 2020/21 before signing a five-year deal with Leipzig, and has been compared to France legend Lillian Thuram.

The France U20's arrival also follows fellow Frenchman Ibrahima Konate's transfer to Liverpool. He is expected to partner up with Hungary international Willi Orban or Croatia international Josip Gvardiol - potentially both - in the middle of Marsch's defence.

Leipzig - Bundesliga and DFB Cup runners-up last season - get their competitive campaign under way on 7 August with a DFB Cup first-round trip to Bundesliga 2 outfit Sandhausen. Mainz provide the opposition a week later, on Bundesliga Matchday 1.