Manchester United and Liverpool are among the many clubs expected to be keeping a close eye on RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano ahead of next summer, when a release clause in his contract will become active.
Although still only 21, Upamecano has emerged as one of the most talked about centre-backs in Europe and has a potentially great long-term future ahead of him.
The young talent has a contract at RB Leipzig, whom he joined from partner club Red Bull Salzburg three years ago, until 2023. But the crucial detail that will make him hot property in the summer of 2021 is the release clause that could make him a bargain signing for any top side.
Manchester United have identified a centre-back as a key part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s planned squad rebuild, although it wasn’t deemed to be a priority position during what was ultimately a difficult 2020 summer transfer window amid financial restraints.
United were briefly linked with Upamecano during the summer, when his release clause in an expiring contract was £54m – that figure would have been a lot to pay for a player in the last of their existing deal. ESPN reported this week that Upamecano, along with Nathan Ake, who joined Manchester City in early August, were Solskjaer’s preferred centre-back targets.
Perhaps one of the reasons they opted not to pursue it, aside from prioritising other positions, was the knowledge of Upamecano’s new release clause that soon comes into play.
When he signed a fresh contract with Leipzig in August, German publication Kicker revealed at the time it was agreed with the condition of a €42m (£38.25m) release clause that will become active in 2021, effectively making the player low-hanging fruit to secure a high profile transfer.
That number has now been reiterated by new gossip from Germany that is gaining traction again.
Despite Upamecano being available for much cheaper next summer than he would have been this year, the problem that United will face in 2021 is a strong level of competition.
The chance to sign a potentially world class defender, both for an immediate boost and as a long-term investment, for less than £40m is something that most top clubs will take an interest in.
In that respect, Liverpool have been billed as United’s closest competitors. Manchester City are less likely to pursue it, having just spent over £100m on deals for Ruben Dias and the aforementioned Ake. However, the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus would all also have good reason to pursue Upamecano with such a limited price and huge long-term upside.