Bayern Munich and France defender Dayot Upamecano is among the best in the world. - © Sebastian Widmann/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty
Bayern Munich and France defender Dayot Upamecano is among the best in the world. - © Sebastian Widmann/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty

Dayot Upamecano: Who is the Bayern Munich and France centre-back?


He's quick, strong and can start attacks just as smoothly as he nips them in the bud - is Bayern Munich's Dayot Upamecano the world's best young defender? takes a closer look at the Frenchman who's perfecting a new brand of defending... 

Stats correct as of 4 June 2024

Dayot Upamecano

Age: 25
Club: Bayern Munich
Position: Centre-back
Country: France (18 caps/2 goal)

Key stats

It would be easy to reduce Upamecano to his young age and man-mountain physique, but the 6'1" French centre-back has so much more to him than that.

Blessed with the sort of pace to rival the niftiest forward and the power to quickly shift his 198lb frame into high gear, Upamecano can also play a bit, and has regularly shown it with Bayern and also at his previous club RB Leipzig, who put their faith in him when he signed as an 18-year-old from Red Bull Salzburg. "I spoke to Ousmane Dembele before joining Leipzig and he told me, 'Here, they're going to play you,'" said Upamecano, who rejected overtures from across Europe to move to Germany on the advice of the former Borussia Dortmund star.

Part of the Leipzig side that reached the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League semi-finals, Upamecano displayed his ability on the ball as he broke the lines with vertical passes 113 times in the competition - more than any other player to make it that far. A year later, he followed Julian Nagelsmann to Bayern for whom he's since made 114 competitive appearances and won two Bundesliga titles. The Bayern No.2 was also part of the France team that finished as 2022 FIFA World Cup runners-up.

Watch: Analysing Upamecano, the modern centre-back

Plays a bit like: Marcel Desailly

Desailly was nicknamed 'The Rock' for a reason. Upamecano shares the same build as France's 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2000 winner, and is equally the sort of player on whom a side can be built: solid, reliable, immovable.

Desailly's game was based on strength, speed and anticipation, all qualities that came naturally to Bayern's imposing young Frenchman. But he would not have been such a success in his career if he didn't have the ability to ensure his passes found Zinedine Zidane, Thierry et al far more often than Row Z.

Upamecano is now a key part of the France team. - imago

For France, it is a case of deja vu with Upamecano, who thrives on bringing the ball out of defence once he has nabbed it from his opposition. The youngster followed his silverware-studded predecessor into the world champions' senior squad in September 2020. "I dream of becoming one of the best defenders in the world one day," Upamecano has stated.

Did you know?

Upamecano's first name in full is Dayotchanculle. "It was the name of my great-grandfather, my father gave it to me as a tribute," explained the centre-back, who grew up in the Madeleine neighbourhood of Evreux where Dembele was a childhood friend.

Upamecano forged a reputation as one of the Bundesliga's best on-ball defenders at RB Leipzig. - DFL

"When there wasn't any school, we went to the local pitches," Upamecano remembers. "We lived in a neighbourhood of footballers, with a little stadium where we had big tournaments, and for two or three hours, we gave our all."

What they're saying

"He's a great defender. He didn't need much time to adapt. He's a great guy, very very nice, a fantastic player. Defensively, he gives us a lot." - France teammate Lucas Hernandez

"I've not seen a faster centre-back, and Dayot has an unbelievable physique. He can become as good as Jerome Boateng if he can keep improving." - former Leipzig teammate Timo Werner

"His development has been super. He's taken big steps." - former Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann on Upamecano's progress from his first to second season at Bayern

"If there are four better centre-backs than Dayot Upamecano, I want to see them." - former Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick when Upamecano was not called up for a France U21 game. He sent a scouting team... which eventually led to the signing of Ibrahima Konate!