After weeks of to and fro speculation, Manchester City have finally moved to conclude the signing of Schalke 04’s Leroy Sané for £37 million plus add-ons. The German’s arrival contributes to the intrigue already surrounding Pep Guardiola’s debut season in the Premier League, who once again chooses to shop in his old playground for Bundesliga talent.
The versatile Sané enriches the attacking options already at the Man City boss’ disposal, and with the winger previously referenced as a Bayern Munich transfer target in Guardiola’s time with the Bavarians, you can tell just how much thought has gone into to this signing. Here’s the lowdown on City’s exciting new purchase.
The technical ability and its simplicity is laudable, meanwhile the turn of pace and individualism is as menacing as it comes – it’s easy to see just why the Premier League club was so keen to nail down the £37 million-rated Sané. Although the young German’s habitual tricks don’t always come off, it’s yet to be something that’s thrown him off a style that’s made him the exciting talent he is today.
Be it success or failure in taking on his opponents, Sané looks to return with the same confidence and enthusiasm as if it were the first time he was looking to blow defenders away. Space simply cannot be afforded to the 20-year-old, who constantly looks to utilise his explosiveness and height-supplemented long strides on the ball to inflict damage.
Wolfsburg had to learn that the hard way in the 2014/2015 season, even if Sané was 70 yards away from goal before powering through on the counter and scoring one of the goals of the season. And speaking of goals of the season, the ex-Schalke man provided another gem in the very same campaign versus Eintracht Frankfurt, demonstrating his awe-inspiring technical simplicity and composure in front of goal to full effect when rounding the goalkeeper, shuffling sideways down the by-line to take a defender out of the game before repeating the dosage on Frankfurt’s keeper once again and slotting the ball in.
There certainly appears to be something about Sané’s confidence in front of goal in that he doesn’t just come up with regular finishes, but instead produces those you’d aesthetically associate with a clinical and cool-headed striker. Perhaps being the son of former Freiburg and FC Nürnberg front man Souleyman Sané has helped in that regard.
Despite consistency fears, Sané stepped up last season for an often underperforming Schalke team to contribute to more goals than any other under-21 player in the Bundesliga, scoring eight goals and assisting a further six.
As touched upon crudely, consistency has so far been the stick to beat down the Sané hype with. When the space to attack defenders isn’t there, the winger’s presence on the game often goes with it, resulting in contrasting sides of the German international. When he’s hot, he almost looks unplayable, but if that unique flow to the game isn’t there for him to strive in, he goes totally unnoticed.
His decision-making has at times looked sketchy, but it’s important to remember the psychological effects an underperforming team can pose to such a young player, especially when he’s rated as highly as Sané.
Furthermore, the 20-year-old has just 47 Bundesliga appearances to his name. He is still very young and early into a potentially world class career. He will, inevitably, experience more bad days at the office throughout his career, but that’s all part of the learning curve.
Where he fits
The observation from onlookers is that Sané’s highly-anticipated move puts the brakes on Raheem Sterling’s relevance as a Man City player and, statistically, it’s easy to see why that conclusion has been drawn.
Despite trailing his new team mate in shot accuracy, Sané with 56% and Sterling with 61%, the new signing does beat the England international in goals-to-games ratio (0.23 – 0.09) and assists-to-games ratio (0.31 – 0.28), all while playing for the inferior team.
But if Sané can be excused for his inconsistent form due to his tender age, Sterling is just a year older and is by no means out of the picture at the Etihad Stadium. Furthermore, despite appearing comfortable in all three attacking positions behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1, much of the German’s best work has come as an inverted winger on the right flank, meaning Sterling’s case on the opposite wing still remains a bold one.
Guardiola’s love for inside forwards and overlapping full backs could also indicate that Sané will, predominantly, be utilised on the right, meanwhile Kevin De Bruyne may go on to occupy Thomas Müller’s role in support for Sergio Agüero.
On face value, Sané also doesn’t strike many as a typical possession-manipulating Guardiola-esque player, like David Silva. The ex-Schalke man is still young and, naturally, very raw, but perhaps that’s what has made him so coveted in the blue half of Manchester.
In Sané, the Catalan manager has a project in which to transform the player to bear his own image and style, meanwhile utilising his youthful exuberance until then to add an element of unpredictability to City’s game.
Such a move in the transfer window was evident when Guardiola turned to Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman last season; players that allowed the ex-Bayern boss to be fully equipped with tools for every eventuality throughout their campaign. With that in mind, Sané’s trajectory in England has all the makings of being an exciting one.