Since joining Bayern Munich from RB Leipzig along with Julian Nagelsmann and Marcel Sabitzer this summer, Dayot Upamecano has already logged a total eighteen appearances across all appearances, with four assists to boast, which is a nine-way tie for the fifth most in the Bundesliga. Alongside Lucas Hernandez, he’s quickly become a mainstay in Bayern’s back line as a center-back, especially with Niklas Sule’s recent success playing as a right-back. Nagelsmann knows him quite well already from their time working together at Leipzig, but it’s humble beginnings in Évreux, France that’s helped mold the Upamecano we see today for Bayern and the French National Team.
In a recent interview with FCBayern.com, Upamecano recalled growing up in the French commune in Normandy, playing football on concrete pitches in the streets as a kid. Those experiences, he said, helped him grow a level of maturity and always kept him humble, which can be a hard thing to maintain for young footballers that work their way into first teams of big clubs.
To this day, Upamecano says he still has scars on his knee from playing on street pitches as a youngster. “We played on concrete as children and teenagers and always in five-a-side games. There was no referee and therefore it was intense. We played for hours without stopping. My mother would call out of the window: ‘Come back home now.’ And I always answered: ‘Please, another five minutes!’ I could have played for ever,” he explained.
As a center-back, aggression, anticipation, and toughness are all required in abundance at the highest levels, and Upamecano said that those youth and childhood experiences in Évreux helped shape the right mentality that he possesses today. “I think the aggression, the mentality, which was completely normal for us back then, characterizes me up to now on the pitch. We always had our own, special crowd: People from the area, perhaps ten people who watched us and cheered us on. We celebrated with our spectators when we scored. You definitely want to win under those conditions. You notice there’s a crowd and you want to give them something back. Also you don’t feel like them taking the mickey when you lose,” he said.
Of course, Upamecano has made his fair share of individual mistakes at Bayern so far this season, but it’s about how you react to those situations and stay mentally tough. Having to bear both physical and mental pain during his youth, playing on those unforgiving surfaces has molded his ability to deal with adversity during his professional career. Whenever results done go Bayern Munich’s way, it’s a huge deal in Germany, so it’s increasingly difficult to deal with some of mental pain associated with it. “You have to be able to bear pain if you want to win. With us, we always wanted to win all the games. It was important to us to be able to say in the end: ‘We’ve won!’ I’ve been very strong mentally since that time,” Upamecano explained.