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Arsenal-linked Upamecano 'one of the most exciting defenders in the world', says Gunners' academy manager Mertesacker

11:31 BST 18/08/2020
Dayot Upamecano RB Leipzig 2019
The former centre-back was hugely impressed with the Frenchman's performance for RB Leipzig against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League

Per Mertesacker has described Dayot Upamecano "one of the most exciting central defenders the world has to offer" amid talk of Arsenal's interest in the RB Leipzig star.

Upamecano is currently enjoying the best season of his career to date, having played a key role in Leipzig's run to a third-place Bundesliga finish and the semi-finals of the Champions League.

His latest performance helped Julian Nagelsmann's men upset Atletico Madrid in the last eight of Europe's elite competition, as he kept the likes of Diego Costa, Marcos Llorente and Yannick Carrasco quiet during a stunning 2-1 win in Lisbon.

The 21-year-old recently committed his future to Leipzig through to 2023, but a number of top clubs are still reported to be weighing up a summer swoop for his services, including Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Arsenal have also been strongly linked with Upamecano, and Mertesacker is excited to see how the defender's career progresses in the coming years.

The Gunners' academy manager sees similarities between the Frenchman and former Brazil international Lucio, and expects him to keep attracting interest from the elite if he continues on his current trajectory.

"I was very excited about the Atletico game," Mertesacker told  Goal  and  DAZN.

"He showed so much and did it right: the courage of a Lucio who just goes forward, but also my solid game of simply finding the right man or withdrawing.

"If he continues like this, works on himself and remains consistent, he will generate more interest. He's definitely one of the most exciting central defenders the world has to offer right now.

"RB certainly made the contract extension very tasty for him. It's exciting to see where his path is going."

Nagelsmann has also been tipped to take the next step in his career after an impressive first year at Leipzig, with Mertesacker of the opinion that one of Europe's youngest managers is already among the best in the business.

"I see him as a very ambitious coach who doesn't shy away from big names," said the ex-Arsenal centre-half. "He is still very young and capable of development, at the moment we can only congratulate him. He tries to implement his tactical ideas.

"He goes along with the RB way, but refines it according to his ideas and does not allow any concept to be imposed on him.

"Comparing him to a single coach is very difficult, but when you beat the top coaches it's inevitable. I already see him in the top 10 in Europe. In his young, dynamic, tactically clever way he is unique."

Mertesacker added on the possibility of Nagelsmann making a move to the Premier League: "Such successes keep the Bundesliga coming into focus.

"The more experience he gains, the more naturally he brings himself into the conversation. I am curious to see whether it will be possible to install young English coaches, also from the youth set-up.

"If Julian continues like this, he will automatically be a candidate in England too."