He may only be 19 years of age, but RB Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano is fast developing into one of the Bundesliga's finest and most consistent defenders.
Signed in January from FC Salzburg, the France youth international has played the full 90 minutes in all but two of Leipzig's 11 league games so far this season, helping Ralph Hasenhüttl's side keep the pressure on league leaders Bayern Munich at the top of the table.
Speaking exclusively to bundesliga.com, Upamecano reflects on his progress at the Red Bull Arena, shares his thoughts on Leipzig's start to the 2017/18 campaign and looks ahead to the Matchday 12 clash with in-form Bayer Leverkusen.
bundesliga.com: How would you describe a typical day working under Ralph Hasenhüttl?
Upamecano: It wasn’t easy for me at Leipzig to begin with: being in a new club, in a new environment, at such a young age. But I always gave everything in training and the coach soon put his trust in me. I’ve tried to repay it. As a coach, he’s tactically very astute and trusts young players.
Upamecano: They definitely made integrating easier. I’m happy they’re there. I already knew Naby Keita from my time at Salzburg, so that made it even easier to settle in at Leipzig.
bundesliga.com: After 11 matchdays, Leipzig are second and have already got away games against Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich out of the way. What’s the objective between now and the winter break?
Upamecano: Obviously we want to continue to mix it at the top and consolidate our position. We’re only looking at what we’re doing, though, and how we’re progressing. We want to pick up as many points as possible – then we’ll see where we are at the end of it.
bundesliga: Next Saturday you take on a much-improved Bayer Leverkusen side at the BayArena. Are you expecting a difficult game?
Upamecano: It certainly won’t be easy, but we’re going to Leverkusen to win. We know full well that Bayer 04 are uncomfortable opposition and a real threat in attack. They want to be playing in Europe again, but we’ll get a good result if we play with a high intensity and play our way.
bundesliga.com: Is it difficult to defend against Timo Werner in training?
Upamecano: I’m happy we’re on the same team because he’s difficult for opposition players to stop. His pace, his exceptional technique and finishing – he’s a class striker. He definitely has the potential to become one of the best strikers in the world.
Watch: Leipzig's #FIFA18 Bundesliga Free Kick Challenge
bundesliga.com: What’s surprised you most about the Bundesliga so far?
Upamecano: Nothing’s really come as a surprise, because I knew how popular the Bundesliga is, but it’s still a real treat to play in front of a sell-out crowd – which happens pretty much every week. The Bundesliga is one of the best leagues in the world.
Dayot Upamecano was speaking to Alexis Menuge
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