Compared to previous years, the Premier League winter transfer window was very quiet this January.
Manchester United did bring in young winger Amad Diallo, however his was a transfer arranged in the summer.
Rumours were rife suggesting that United, Chelsea and Liverpool all desired a new central defender.
And on Deadline Day, Liverpool duly moved, some Michael Edwards hocus pocus bringing in Preston North End’s Ben Davies on a permanent transfer and Schalke’s Ozan Kabak on a loan deal. Total immediate outlay: Less than £2million.
Also forthcoming on the final day of the window were quotes from Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, pointing out Chelsea and Liverpool as two sides who are battling the European champions for the signature of Dayot Upamecano.
The French star has also been monitored by United for the better part of 12 months too, and while they are eyeing a long-term upgrade on Victor Lindelof, there was no chance of RB Leipzig letting him leave in the January window.
Jurgen Klopp admitted last week that the Reds did enquire to RBL about whether a potential last ditch deal was do-able – but was quoted “crazy money”.
But could the availability of the 22-year-old in the upcoming summer be the reason behind why the three clubs have opted against purchasing a new big-money starting centre-back last month?
Upamecano has a contract until 2023, but a £38million release clause becomes active at the end of the current campaign.
With room still left to grow, Upamecano appears to have the credentials to reach the very top of the game and he’s well-suited to forming part of an offensive system.
Each of United, Chelsea and Liverpool have aspirations to play attacking football, but in order for that to be achieved, the central defenders at each club have to be complete enough to cope with the demands on their shoulders.
Teams which represent an attacking brand of football have to commit players forward; they have to take risks on the ball and require every player to contribute with some sort of threat in possession regardless of the position.
As a consequence, central defenders for top attacking sides have to be composed on the ball, able to cope in isolation without support, capable of managing wide open spaces and ultimately, they have to dominate opponents.
Those types of players aren’t particularly common; central defenders who are strong in the air don’t tend to be quick across the ground, and the same usually applies the other way around.
Upamecano is rare by those requirements as he ticks many of the desirable boxes for a centre-back executing an offensive brand of football.
The French defender ranks eighth in the Bundesliga this season for aerial success based on players who have contested at least 30 battles, winning 73% of his 63 duels. His ability in the air stems mostly from his physical maturity, standing 6-foot-2.
While governing most of his aerial battles, Upamecano also copes well when faced with opponents when the ball is on the floor. He is aggressive, proactive, and strong enough to out-muscle others while also possessing enough pace to sweep up through balls in behind.
His ability to boss one-on-one defensive situations is one of the key reasons why he’s so suited to performing as part of an attacking unit, as his presence permits his teammates to get forward and advance into the final third.
In possession, Upamecano is equally as useful; once compared to Bundesliga defenders who have played at least 900 minutes this season, the French international places eighth for passes into the final third per 90 and 25th for progressive passes per 90.
His longer passes are his most notable means of using the ball, though, with 19.6 passes longer than 30 yards completed per 90, which places him behind only Bayer Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba.
Upamecano is keen to bring his team to the final third quickly by hitting long, ranking third in the division for progressive distance per 90, which covers the total distance – in yards – that completed passes have travelled towards the opponent’s goal.
By purchasing the Leipzig centre-back, Chelsea, United or Liverpool would be adding a very valuable tool to their squad, as he holds many of the necessary skills needed to contribute to an attacking team across a number of different departments.
Whether it is allowing others to get forward, showcasing aerial prowess or bringing his team to the business end of the field through his use of the ball, he seems to be well-rounded enough to make a difference to whoever manages to secure his signature, and he’s far from entering his peak years.
He isn’t yet perfect and he does have areas to improve upon, but it’s crystal clear why he’s such a prized asset.
Chelsea and United kept their powder dry where defenders were concerned, while Liverpool committed minimal funds to find a temporary solution to their problem.
And ultimately, Upamecano could be the overwhelming factor behind those decisions.
Sign up for the Mirror Football newsletter here