Saturday should have seen Barcelona host Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and pit Antoine Griezmann against his old club once more.

Griezmann left Atleti for Camp Nou in the second most expensive transfer of the previous close season, his €120million move eclipsed only by Joao Felix, the man bought to replace him.

Neither player has exactly enjoyed a resoundingly triumphant season, which is an affliction to hit many of the top 10 most expensive transfers of 2019.

We look at each of those players and whether their signings have, until now, been a hit or a miss...

 

JOAO FELIX: Benfica to Atletico Madrid (€126m)

Benfica and Portugal's golden boy scored in pre-season victories over Juventus and Real Madrid to give Atleti fans reason to believe the post-Griezmann future was bright.

However, just six goals in 28 competitive appearances later, doubts have been growing as to whether the 20-year-old forward will ever truly suit Diego Simeone's system.

VERDICT: MISS

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN: Atletico Madrid to Barcelona (€120m)

Griezmann vowed to stay at Atletico in 2018 only to change his mind a year later, and his performances for Barca are in keeping with a man not quite at ease in his surroundings.

Only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez better his goal involvements for the Blaugrana in LaLiga this term (eight goals and four assists), while he is second only to Messi for chances created (26), but fans were entitled to expect more from the club's latest mega-money forward.

VERDICT: MISS

EDEN HAZARD: Chelsea to Real Madrid (€100m)

Chelsea fans feared the worst when their star man was lost during a transfer embargo, but things have hardly gone swimmingly for Hazard at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Injury problems have restricted him to just nine starts and a solitary goal and assist in LaLiga. He has also only created 14 chances, as many as James Rodriguez (who has started just four league games) and Lucas Vazquez (who has started six).

VERDICT: MISS

HARRY MAGUIRE: Leicester City to Manchester United (€87m)

The world's most expensive central defender might not be thought of as the world's best, but that should not detract from his impact on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

He leads the way for duels won, aerial duels won, blocks and interceptions among United defenders in the Premier League this season, helping them to eight clean sheets. Oh, and he's already been made club captain.

VERDICT: HIT

MATTHIJS DE LIGT: Ajax to Juventus (€85m)

The most coveted centre-back of the window after Ajax's remarkable Champions League run, De Ligt delivered a dreadful performance on his Juventus debut in a 4-3 win over Napoli.

He has won the most aerial duels and has the pass success rate of any Juve defender to feature more than five times in Serie A this term, but there are already doubts about his long-term suitability to Maurizio Sarri's side.

VERDICT: MISS

LUCAS HERNANDEZ: Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich (€80m)

Bayern smashed their transfer record to sign defender Hernandez, but injuries have made it difficult to assess whether the money will prove to be well-spent.

A knee problem in September was followed by a serious ankle injury that kept him out for nearly four months, meaning he has started only nine games in all competitions for the Bundesliga champions.

VERDICT: MISS

NICOLAS PEPE: Lille to Arsenal (€80m)

Pepe was something of a symbol of Unai Emery's problematic final few weeks in charge as he struggled badly to find form for the Gunners.

He has certainly shown signs of improvement in 2020 – only Mesut Ozil (38) has created more chances in the league than Pepe (34) for Arsenal – but fans will have hoped for more from their record signing.

VERDICT: MISS

FRENKIE DE JONG: Ajax to Barcelona (€75m)

Another Ajax star who became coveted by clubs across Europe last year, De Jong opted for Barca and immediately became a regular in midfield.

He has not quite adapted to life in LaLiga - Ernesto Valverde's exit and Quique Setien's arrival as coach did not help - but, in turbulent times for the club, he looks to be a safe bet as the beating heart of Barca for years to come: he had created more chances (24) than any other Barca midfielder this term and only Sergio Busquets has more recoveries and interceptions.

VERDICT: HIT

RODRI: Atletico Madrid to Manchester City (€70m)

Manchester City's record signing has proved a smart bit of a business given midfield-anchor supreme Fernandinho has spent much of this season in defence.

Rodri has attempted more passes (1,996), recorded a better passing accuracy (92 per cent) and more recoveries (181) than any other City midfielder in 2019-20. He looks very much at home in Pep Guardiola's system.

VERDICT: HIT

ROMELU LUKAKU: Manchester United to Inter (€65m)

Lukaku's move to Inter seems to have been that rarity in modern-day transfers: a deal that has worked out well for everyone concerned.

United's attack is taking the more fluid shape Solskjaer wants, Antonio Conte at last got the forward he tried to bring to Juventus and Chelsea, and Lukaku has looked in the form of his career, with 17 goals and two assists in Serie A as part of a fearsome partnership with Lautaro Martinez.

VERDICT: HIT

Philippe Coutinho will be sidelined for two weeks after undergoing ankle surgery, Bayern Munich announced on Friday.

The Brazil international had surgery to remove loose fragments in his right ankle joint, with the Bundesliga club confirming the procedure was a success.

Coutinho, who is on a season-long loan at Bayern from Barcelona, contributing nine goals and eight assists in 32 appearances, will begin his recovery programme in 14 days.

The 27-year-old may not miss any matches, however, as it is still unclear when the campaign will resume in Germany following the coronavirus outbreak that has halted most football across Europe.

On Thursday, the German Football League (DFL) announced the top two tiers are on course to be back in action in May, though the final decision on a restart date lies with the nation's politicians.

Mass gatherings have been prohibited by the government until the end of August, but DFL chief executive Christian Seifert said the governing body is working towards playing fixtures behind closed doors.

The Bundesliga is on track to resume the 2019-20 season in May but the final decision on the restart date lies with politicians, the German Football League (DFL) announced on Thursday.

Germany's top two tiers are suspended until April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, while mass gatherings have been prohibited by the government until the end of August.

DFL chief executive Christian Seifert said this month the organisation was working towards a return to action in early May with games played behind closed doors.

Following a virtual meeting between the 36 clubs on Thursday, the DFL confirmed its plans to continue with the season.

Seifert said: "The Bundesliga is ready to resume, whether on May 9 or a later date. But it's not up to us to find a date, the political decision-makers decide.

"We have not defined an exact date today. The fact that we are even able to think about resuming games underlines the performance of the German authorities. It would be presumptuous for the DFL to name an exact date for the restart.

"If the signal comes in the next week that it can be May 9, then it will be May 9. It's not up to us whether we can play at all. It is only up to us to create the framework conditions.

"The season should be finished by June 30. If we need to play in July too, we will. We are currently not thinking about next season. First of all, it is the matter of ending the current season."

Guidelines for the staging of matches include strict hygiene requirements, close testing and permanent monitoring of those at the games. The DFL will also provide €500,000 to public health authorities to help with coronavirus testing.

Access to Bundesliga stadiums will be limited to 213 people on matchdays and Seifert urged fans not to gather outside arenas.

"When we start playing again, gatherings outside the stadium must be avoided," said Seifert.

"Otherwise the fans will need to accept the fact that the matches will not take place. If this happens during the match, it will be cancelled.

"The situation might even require us to talk about games without fans next year. Therefore, the clubs should plan without income from spectators for the time being."

It was also announced by the DFL that €7.5million from the solidarity fund set up by Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen will be shared equally between the 3. Liga and women's Bundesliga.

In Germany there have been over 151,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 5,354 recorded deaths.

Hansi Flick has vowed Manuel Neuer will stay as Bayern Munich's first-choice goalkeeper next season.

And in a stark warning that underlines the system of meritocracy at Bayern, Flick stressed the incoming Alexander Nubel will face a battle for a seat on the bench.

Neuer and Bayern are in contract talks, with the experienced Germany international having just under 15 months remaining on his deal.

The 34-year-old has dismissed talk he wants a new five-year contract and both sides appear to want a resolution to keep Neuer at the club.

Head coach Flick considers him a key part of the Bayern side, telling Kicker: "Manuel Neuer is clearly our number one, nothing will change in the coming season. Alexander Nubel knows that."

Nubel will join Bayern from Schalke at the end of the season after the 23-year-old established himself as one of Germany's best young shot-stoppers.

It remains to be seen where his first-team opportunities come up at Bayern, given Neuer's presence.

And Flick made it clear he is not discounting Sven Ulreich, the current understudy to Neuer who has a year left on his Bayern contract.

"Alexander Nubel will have the same trust and the same appreciation as all other goalkeepers and players in our team," Flick said.

"We want to develop him further, but it is also clear that performance is what counts at Bayern. And Sven Ulreich is doing really well at the moment."

Alphonso Davies was rewarded for a brilliant breakout season with a contract extension that ties him to Bayern Munich until 2025 on Monday.

The Canada teenager won a Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal medal last term, but only made his appearances for Die Roten off the bench.

However, Davies converted to a left-back this season to ease a defensive crisis that has seen David Alaba play mainly as a centre-back for Bayern.

Davies was excelling in the role prior to the suspension of the Bundesliga due to the coronavirus pandemic and here we take a closer look at the 19-year-old with the help of Opta.


MIXING IT WITH THE BUNDESLIGA'S BEST

In the Bundesliga, Davies is comparing favourably to his fellow left-backs. Indeed, his four assists can only be bettered in that position by the five of Freiburg's Christian Gunther.

Among all players with at least 100 take-ons this season, Davies has the best success rate (58 per cent).

His open-cross success rate (of players with at least 30) is the best in the Bundesliga at 37 per cent, while a passing accuracy of 87 per cent is only improved upon by Borussia Dortmund's Raphael Guerriero (89) among left-backs.

Davies also has the most take-ons and has had more duels than any other left-back in the league this term.


KEEPING UP WITH THE PACE

Davies' speed and ability to recover have been a crucial aspect for Bayern and it speaks volumes that he is the only player to start each of the 21 competitive matches since Hansi Flick took charge.

His top speed in the Bundesliga this season is 35.3 km/h. Of Bayern players only Kingsley Coman has clocked a quicker time (35.7 km/h).

Ivan Perisic is the only Die Roten player with more sprints per 90 minutes (39) than Davies (37).

In total, Davies has completed 112 take-ons, while he has a goal involvement once every 318 minutes.

Perhaps a little surprisingly, all four of his four assists in the Bundesliga have come away from home. Indeed, his only top-flight goal involvement at the Allianz Arena was his goal against Mainz on match day three.

Michael Vick entered the NFL 19 years ago on Tuesday, a quarterback considered to be so talented that the Atlanta Falcons traded up to land him in the 2001 NFL Draft.

Future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson was also drafted on April 21, 2001 and record-breaking quarterback Drew Brees became his team-mate at the San Diego Chargers.

Bayern Munich delivered one of the most devastating first-half displays in Champions League history, while Philip Humber pitched the third perfect game in Chicago White Sox history.

We take a look back at the major events that occurred on this day in previous years.

 

2001 - Vick becomes new Falcons quarterback

Vick only played 20 games in college at Virginia Tech, but the Falcons had seen enough to send second and third-round selections, and wide receiver Tim Dwight, to take the top pick off the Chargers' hands.

In six seasons with Atlanta, Vick was named to the Pro Bowl three times, twice taking the Falcons to the playoffs. However, in 2007, Vick admitted to financing a dogfighting ring and was jailed for 23 months. Upon his release, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles, retiring in 2017 after spells with the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Chargers spent their first pick - the fifth overall - on running back Tomlinson, while they grabbed Brees in the second round, though it was with the New Orleans Saints where he would emerge as a truly elite quarterback.

 

2012 - Humber's perfect game

White Sox pitcher Humber had an MLB record of just 16-23 and was yet to complete a game when he came to the mound against the Seattle Mariners.

What followed was the 21st perfect game in MLB history across 96 pitches as Humber joined the likes of Cy Young, Sandy Koufax and Roy Halladay.

Humber, who received a congratulatory call from noted White Sox fan US President Barack Obama, finished with nine strikeouts, while the other batters were retired with five groundouts and 13 flyouts.

2015 - Bayern batter Porto

Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich were on the brink of being eliminated from the 2014-15 Champions League at the quarter-final stage when they lost 3-1 to Porto in the first leg.

However, back in Bavaria, they soon turned the tie on its head by scoring five times in the opening 40 minutes, eventually cruising to a 6-1 success - and a 7-4 aggregate victory - to reach the last four.

Guardiola's old side Barcelona would beat Bayern in the semi-finals, though, going on to lift the trophy by defeating Juventus in the final.

Manchester United continue to be linked with a number of players, even during the football shutdown due to coronavirus.

Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho, Tottenham star Harry Kane and Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish.

Atletico Madrid sensation Joao Felix is the latest name on the list.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE JOAO FELIX

Manchester United are interested in signing Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix, according to Le10 Sport.

Joao Felix swapped Benfica for Atletico in a big-money deal at the start of the 2019-20 season, having been linked to United.

United reportedly remain interested in Joao Felix and want the 20-year-old Portuguese attacker to follow in the footsteps of Red Devils great Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could Zinedine Zidane be set for a return to Juventus? Le10 Sport claims the Serie A giants want the Real Madrid head coach to replace Juve boss Maurizio Sarri for the 2020-21 season. Zidane spent five years as a player in Turin, where the Frenchman won two Serie A trophies among other titles before moving to Madrid in 2001.

Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Madrid and Juve are monitoring Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, says Corriere dello Sport. Donnarumma is out of contract in 2021 and the Italy international goalkeeper is no closer to signing a new deal.

- Calciomercato reports Inter are working on extending Marcelo Brozovic's contract amid interest from Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool.

- United midfielder Paul Pogba remains Juve's number one target but the Bianconeri are ready to make a move for Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic if a deal does not materialise, says Calciomercato.

Arsenal, Milan and Leicester City are chasing Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, claims journalist Nicolo Schira.

- According to journalist Alfredo Pedulla, Sarri wants to reunite with Chelsea star Jorginho at Juve. Sarri and Jorginho both joined Chelsea from Napoli in 2018-19. Now the Juve boss is interested in signing the midfielder again.

Samuel Umtiti does not want to leave Barcelona, SPORT reports. The French defender has previously been linked to United and Arsenal.

David Alaba is not a top target for Madrid but the LaLiga giants continue to monitor the Bayern Munich full-back, says Marca.

Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is optimistic Manuel Neuer will extend his contract with the club.

The 34-year-old's deal expires at the end of 2020-21 and there has been no breakthrough in talks over fresh terms.

There were reports Neuer was demanding a five-year deal worth €20million annually, but he rubbished those suggestions in an interview with Bild am Sonntag.

Neuer also made it clear he is unhappy with the way certain details around the discussions were being leaked to the media.

Rummenigge, though, is confident both parties will find a way to keep the Germany goalkeeper at the Allianz Arena.

"We both know what we have in each other," he told Bild on Monday. "And under these circumstances, I am optimistic that we will find a solution in the end and that Manuel Neuer will sign a new contract.

"We have the world's best goalkeeper and we have already won everything with him."

When asked about Neuer's anger at the leaks of his contract talks, Rummenigge replied: "His interview was only yesterday, so we could not react to it yet."

Neuer's future has been further complicated by the fact Bayern will sign Alexander Nubel from Schalke on a free transfer on July 1.

The 23-year-old's arrival has also cast doubt on the prospects of Sven Ulreich staying at the club, but Neuer's present understudy plans to fight for his place.

His agent, Jurgen Schwab, told Kicker: "Bayern are a meritocracy, where sporting decisions are made.

"Let's see who ends up behind Manuel Neuer on the bench."

Alphonso Davies has penned a two-year extension to his Bayern Munich contract, which now runs until 2025.

The 19-year-old was signed by the Bundesliga champions in July 2018 and started training with the club in November of that year after completing the MLS season with Vancouver Whitecaps.

Davies made six first-team appearances off the bench last term and has made a further 29 in all competitions this season after converting to left-back, with David Alaba having featured predominantly in the centre of defence to help Bayern's injury woes at the back.

The Canada international's previous deal was due to expire in 2023 but Bayern confirmed he has put pen to paper on fresh terms.

"I am very happy. FC Bayern is one of the best clubs in the world and it was a dream come true for me to be able to play here," he told the club's website.

"I felt comfortable from day one. I want to get as many titles as possible with this club. The mentality of always wanting to win everything is FC Bayern's DNA."

CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge added: "Alphonso has developed very well at FC Bayern and has earned this contract extension with his impressive performances.

"We are happy that he will remain with FC Bayern in the long term. He delights our fans not only with the way he plays, but also with the way he is off the pitch."

Davies won a league and DFB-Pokal last season and was also part of the Bayern reserves side who won promotion to the third tier.

Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said: "I am very pleased that FC Bayern and Alphonso have made a long-term commitment to each other.

"With his speed, his enthusiasm and his professional attitude, Alphonso is an ideal fit for our team. He is also a real asset in human terms.

"It is up to all of us here to ensure that Alphonso continues to stabilise his very good performance, that he takes the next steps in his development with the same concentration and courage as he has up until now."

Alphonso Davies has penned a two-year extension to his Bayern Munich contract, which now runs until 2025.

After months and months of speculation, Jadon Sancho's future could be resolved.

The 20-year-old attacker has been tipped to return to England, having left Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

And City's neighbours are reportedly set to snap up the in-demand sensation.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED THINK THEY'VE WON SANCHO RACE

Borussia Dortmund's Sancho to Manchester United is a done deal, according to The Sun.

England star Sancho has been heavily linked to United, as well as Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid following his exploits for Dortmund.

However, United believe they have won the race for Sancho after months of secret talks, with just an agreement of a fee with Dortmund remaining.

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Paris Saint-Germain are ready to offer Neymar a salary worth €38million if he stays at the Ligue 1 champions amid links to former club Barcelona.

Sandro Tonali is a real target for Milan, claims Calciomercato. The Brescia star has attracted interest from Serie A champions Juventus, Inter, PSG, Manchester City and others. But Tonali is Milan's big transfer goal as the Rossoneri board tries to rebuild around the 19-year-old.

Mauro Icardi to Napoli and Arkadiusz Milik to Juve? FCInterNews.it says Napoli are back in the hunt to sign Icardi, who is on loan at PSG from Inter. The Argentina forward has been heavily linked to Juve but he could join Napoli if Milik moves to Turin. The front page of Tuttosport also claims Federico Bernardeschi leaving Juve for Napoli could be the key in Milik's future.

Inter are interested in signing RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner if Lautaro Martinez swaps the Nerazzurri for Barca, reports Calciomercato. Liverpool and Bayern Munich have also been linked to Werner.

- AS Diario says Real Madrid are ready to sell Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez. Colombian midfielder James has been linked to United and Juve. Madrid are also prepared to part with Lucas Vazquez, Mariano Diaz, Alvaro Odriozola and Nacho Fernandez.

Arsenal and United have set their sights on Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele, according to Sport. Dembele has struggled for form and fitness at Camp Nou and the Frenchman has reportedly asked Anthony Martial about playing for United.

Manuel Neuer is irritated that details from his contract negotiations with Bayern Munich appear to be getting leaked.

The Germany international has a deal with Bayern running until June 2021 but has grown frustrated with ongoing talks over a potential extension.

Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel will arrive on a free transfer ahead of next season, leading to suggestions the Bavarian giants are preparing to phase Neuer out.

It was reported this week Neuer was demanding a new five-year contract worth €20million per year, but he scoffed at the suggestions.

However, the fact that any information was being leaked into the public domain gave him cause for concern.

"I want to play as long as I'm fit. But the most important thing for me is trust," Neuer said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag.

"It is clear to me that it would be fantasy for me to want a five-year contract. I'm 34 and can't predict how I'm going to be at 39. That is why what has been publicly suggested makes no sense at all.

"I want a contract where FC Bayern and I have a win-win situation that everyone is happy with.

"I want to perform, be there for the team and do everything we can to ensure we have maximum success, with 100 per cent passion. The conditions must be right; that's what it's about.

"What irritates me is that all the conversations I've had here since I joined have always been conducted with great confidence. Nothing ever got out.

"Now, however, details from the current talks are constantly in the media, which are often not even correct. I've not experienced that at FC Bayern.

"It was always important to me to be able to work with the employees in management positions in a spirit of trust – as loyal as I am to the club as a player and captain.

"If things are now apparently being leaked out, it affects the area of 'appreciation'."

Neuer explained that Bayern's decision to appoint Hansi Flick as coach on a permanent basis encouraged him to stay at the Allianz Arena.

He also believes Nubel is a great signing but does not believe there is any truth to suggestions his impending competition has been guaranteed regular games.

"He's a good goalkeeper, no doubt," Neuer said of Nubel. "I understand the transfer in perspective, although with Sven Ulreich we already have a strong number two. He would be the first choice at many other clubs. Nevertheless, Nubel is of course a great signing.

"There is no such thing [as guaranteed games] in competitive sports… I don't think you can tell a coach who manages a team like Bayern who to play."

Pep Guardiola is tactically the greatest but his man-management skills leave a lot to be desired and Cristiano Ronaldo is the undoubted best player in the world, according to Medhi Benatia.

Benatia spent two years playing under the tutelage of now Manchester City boss Guardiola at Bayern Munich between 2014 and 2016.

The experienced centre-back's time in Munich was stop-start due to issues with form and injury but he still won two Bundesliga titles and a DFB-Pokal.

Reflecting on working with Guardiola, Benatia told Goal there were positive and negative aspects playing for a coach regarded by many as the best in the game.

"Tactically he's the best coach in the world, I don't see one better than him," he said. 

"But I didn't like him very much in the relationship with the players, from this point of view he didn't drive me crazy.

"At the beginning I started well, I was the highest paid defender in the history of the Bundesliga and I was elected the best defender of the Serie A. A great club, the top. 

"The reason for the satisfaction linked to that adventure was that they chose me, Guardiola and [Karl-Heinz] Rummenigge. 

"Unfortunately the injuries affected me and, honestly, I missed Italy very much. I did not adapt well and, after a complicated second year, I did everything to return to Italy."

Benatia cut short his time in Germany to return to Serie A, where he had previously represented Udinese and Roma, by agreeing to join Juventus on loan, which would later become a permanent move.

Guardiola has himself been heavily linked with taking over at Juve, but Benatia believes they already had a top-class boss in Maurizio Sarri.

"He is certainly the right profile, but in my opinion Sarri also has an excellent idea of football," he said. 

"This year, perhaps, has been a bit more complicated for Juve, but change always requires patience. And we must not forget that we are talking about a team still in the running to win everything.

"I don't think it is right to talk about other coaches at the moment, the Bianconeri have a good one."

Benatia departed the Bianconeri in January 2019 to join Qatari side Al-Duhail, just six months after Portugal superstar Ronaldo arrived from Real Madrid.

In that short time, Ronaldo made a big impression on Benatia, who added: "He is the absolute number one, as a footballer and as a person. 

"He is very intelligent, even outside the game rectangle. His brain is always faster than that of the others. I am happy to be his friend. I always wish him the best."

It was reported Benatia's exit was in part due to a falling out with former boss Massimiliano Allegri.

Benatia explained the situation from his side.

"Allegri is a great coach and he is a great person. I had no problems with him or anyone else. But he made me promises he didn't keep," he said.

"He told me that I would start with [Giorgio] Chiellini and that [Leonardo] Bonucci should have earned his place. Leo is a champion, but it was expected that I would start and, perhaps, at the first mistake he could have played another one in my place. 

"Things at that moment, they were doing pretty well. I had a brace in the Coppa Italia final and we were talking about contract renewal. After that, I found myself making four benches without playing even a minute.

"Then, apparently, Allegri had made fun of me; I started to lose my mind and I told him that I would never play for Juve again while he was the coach. 

"But I have an extraordinary relationship with the club we still feel [good] and I'm happy to have been able to work with these people."

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s. 

For a player who has had to deal with speculation over his future since attracting attention as a 16-year-old for Valenciennes, it is little wonder Dayot Upamecano is so relaxed about recent links with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

"Even though I know there are clubs that want me - that is certain - I am keeping my feet on the ground," he told Foot Mercato last month. "We will discuss my future at the end of the season with my agents and my family."

Upamecano has a habit of making the right choices, seeing him make a name for himself in the Bundesliga and star on the biggest club stage of them all, the Champions League.

With a pick of Europe's top teams to choose from, as well as the option of extending his stay at his current side, Upamecano faces a big decision at the end of the campaign as he enters the final year of his Leipzig deal.

Using data provided by Opta, we examine just why the Frenchman is attracting so much interest from across the continent and look at his next possible career step.


The story so far

Despite supposed interest from Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal at the time, Upamecano opted for Salzburg in 2015 and soon got a taste for first-team football at feeder club Liefering.

Given the links between the clubs, it came as little surprise when the centre-back opted for Leipzig in January 2017, quickly adapting to a new country and a new league with 12 Bundesliga appearances in the remainder of the season.

Upamecano's displays over the course of the next year saw him nominated for the 2018 Golden Boy award, won by then-Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt, but his game has since gone up another level under the stewardship of Julian Nagelsmann.

The Evreux-born defender has been a mainstay at the back, making 29 appearances in all competitions during the current campaign, which has been halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Leipzig have the joint-best defensive record in the Bundesliga this term, alongside leaders Bayern, with Upamecano playing his part in six of their clean sheets, making the most interceptions and clearances in the side.

Pace, power, passing and positioning

Upamecano boasts a short-pass accuracy of 92.24 per cent in the Bundesliga - an impressive figure - but it is his long passing that sets him aside from the division's other elite players at his position.

Nearly 66 per cent of the 199 long passes he has attempted this season have been successful, compared to 61 per cent for Benjamin Pavard at Bayern, with Borussia Dortmund duo Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji and 58 and 55 per cent respectively.

As impressive as his strength, pace and passing ability may be, the most notable aspect of Upamecano's game is his ability to take the ball off opponents and start attacks from deep.

He has intercepted the ball 35 times this season, five more than Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk - widely considered to be the best central defender on the planet.

They play in different leagues, of course, but Upamecano has also transferred his domestic displays onto the European stage.

Already arguably the most coveted defender around after stifling Bayern's Robert Lewandowski a few weeks beforehand, Upamecano once again stepped up in Leipzig's impressive 3-0 win over Tottenham last month, each of his enduring traits were on display.

With Leipzig successfully overcoming Tottenham to book a place in the quarter-finals, he will now have an even bigger audience to showcase his skills to when the competition eventually resumes.

What have they said and where next?

A number of current and former stars have heaped praise on the 21-year-old, with team-mate Timo Werner comparing him to Jerome Boateng, for a long time a player many youngsters would mould their game on.

Speaking this week, meanwhile, German football legend Lothar Matthaus talked up the youngster while at the same time warning him that he cannot afford to get carried away.

"He's a young player, highly rated, fast, has a good positional game and uses his body well for a 21-year-old. But a year or two in Leipzig would not hurt him," Matthaus told Sky Sport Germany.

"I can still see one or two per cent where he can learn, but he's a huge player and that's why I'm not surprised that top clubs in Europe are after him."

Upamecano would arguably suit a side that looks to get the ball forward quickly, given that is what a large part of his game centres around at Leipzig, but his defensive abilities and dribbling skills means he would not be out of place at any club.

If the rumours are to be believed and Bayern are weighing up an end-of-season move for Upamecano, it may be too big an opportunity to turn down for a player in control of his own destiny.

Passing the ball can sometimes look like the easiest thing in the world to do. At least, it does when these guys do it.

Our latest dive into the data of 2019-20 sees us look at the best playmakers in Europe's top-five leagues before the season was called to a halt.

We've deliberately broadened our approach to what constitutes a playmaker here – Gerard Pique doesn't often appear as a number 10, unless Barca are in real trouble – as the idea is to offer a wider consideration of those players who generally use the ball better than most when in possession.

To that end, we've looked at 12 different metrics to come up with the top performers of the campaign, again from among those to make at least 10 league appearances.

While some stars are not exactly strange to see in the list below, there is a handful of more surprising names, too...

 

THE TOP PLAYMAKERS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most successful passes: Sven Bender (1,766)
Highest passing accuracy: Axel Witsel (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Joshua Kimmich (873)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Axel Witsel (92.2)
Most passes ending in final third: Jadon Sancho (576)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Axel Witsel (88.4 per cent)
Most chances created: Christopher Nkunku (65)
Most big chances created: Thomas Muller (24)
Most assists: Thomas Muller (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Dennis Geiger (50 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most successful passes: Gerard Pique (1,688)
Highest passing accuracy: Toni Kroos (93.6 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Sergio Busquets (957)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Toni Kroos (92.4)
Most passes ending in final third: Lionel Messi (698)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Toni Kroos (90.3)
Most chances created: Jose Campana (58)
Most big chances created: Lionel Messi (22)
Most assists: Lionel Messi (12)
Most assists from open play: Portu and Lionel Messi (8)
Most crosses/corners successful: Jesus Navas (43)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most successful passes: Marco Verratti (1,581)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Marco Verratti (956)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Thiago Silva (92.8 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Angel Di Maria (543)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Colin Dagba (86 per cent)
Most chances created: Dimitri Payet (87)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Angel Di Maria (14)
Most assists from open play: Angel Di Maria (10)
Most crosses/corners successful: Dimitri Payet (63)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Marco Verratti (54.6 per cent)

 

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: John Stones (94 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (23)
Most assists: Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Kevin De Bruyne (14)
Most crosses/corners successful: Kevin De Bruyne (69)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Christian Atsu (47.1 per cent)

 

SERIE A:

Most successful passes: Fabian Ruiz (1,488)
Highest passing accuracy: Marlon Santos (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Fabian Ruiz (932)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: Eljif Elmas (91.5 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Luis Alberto (723)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Walace (89.7 per cent)
Most chances created: Luis Alberto (75)
Most big chances created: Luis Alberto (16)
Most assists: Luis Alberto (12)
Most assists from open play: Luis Alberto and Alejandro Gomez (9)
Most crosses/corners successful: Erick Pulgar (46)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Armando Izzo (54.6 per cent)

 

AND THE TOP 12:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Thomas Muller and Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

 

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