Bayern Münich live a charmed life in German football. Winning the Bundesliga 17 times in the past quarter decade and comfortably the richest club in the country, outearning their nearest rivals by nearly 70% every year, the Bavarians compound their monetary and competitive advantage by using their position to consistently sign the best players in the league, either for free as their contracts expire, or on the cheap through the leverage the risk of that first thing happening provides.
There have been a few exceptions in recent years, however, and they often involve RB Leipzig and the Red Bull organisation. Bolstered by energy drink billions and a pipeline of never-ending talent from the other clubs belonging to the organisation, the Saxon club have shot up through the ranks of German football, transforming into a legitimate challenger for the throne.
Throughout this decade-long process, not a single Leipzig player has left for Bayern Munich and, even though the club knows it has not yet achieved the status required to hold onto their stars forever, they refuse to be used as a farmer club for their most powerful rival, strategically moving their prized assets out of the country for large but not inflated transfer fees.
Most recently, Timo Werner became a clear example of this trend, as the German, widely considered one of the three best strikers in Europe last season, snubbed Bayern in favour of Liverpool, and subsequently, when the Merseysiders dropped out of the deal due to financial uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, Chelsea.
Now, Leipzig’s most valuable player is undoubtedly Dayotchanculle Upamecano. The French defender, still only 22, has been the lynchpin of the RB defence over the past four seasons, and it looks as though 2021 is the year he takes the next step in his career, with top clubs across the continent chomping at the bit to trigger his €45m release clause in the summer.
Bayern Munich are one such club, of course, but with injuries mounting up as a result of the ridiculous fixture list, other teams — such as Liverpool, for instance — look set to speed up proceedings by making a move in January already. For Bayern, this causes a few problems.
Firstly, a January move — should Leipzig sanction it, which will depend on their league standing by the time the new year rolls around — would likely cost the buying club in the region of €60m instead, representing the second highest transfer figure in the club’s history at a time when finances are limited. Secondly, David Alaba remains at the club still, and, alongside Jérôme Boateng and Nicklas Süle, forms the basis for the Bayern defence, with Hansi Flick unlikely to want to upend that halfway through the season.
Finally, there is the fact that the RB organisation has twice convinced Upamecano to snub the Bavarians, first when he arrived in Salzburg back in 2016, and again when he moved to Leipzig the year after. As has been their MO, Red Bull would likely be willing to compromise on price in order to ensure their star player goes abroad when the time comes.
Questions still remain about Liverpool’s willingness to spend in January, even with their defence decimated by injuries, but should they decide to make their move early, it looks as though one of their main rivals for Upamecano’s signature might be out of the race already.