The curious case of Manchester City's Leroy Sane

the curious case of Leroy Sane

It's a little over a year since Leroy Sané's dead-eyed finish proved the difference in a frenetic game, played at an anarchic pace, between the Premier League's only two true title protagonists of the last three seasons - Manchester City and Liverpool.

The goal ended the Reds' 21-game unbeaten start to the season, reduced their lead at the top of the table to four points and marked the start of an irrepressible run of form that would see City win 17 of their remaining 18 league fixtures. Every one of those wins essential in a title-race won by the margin of just a point.

On his day, Sané is a wonderful footballer to watch, those esteemed sporting genetics (his father a Senegalese international, his mother an Olympic gymnast) clear to see in his prodigious dribbling, graceful acceleration and elegant left foot.

His attributes and style make him genuinely reminiscent of another devastating left-winger who played in Manchester: Ryan Giggs.

Why are City reluctant to keep him?

Sane has not played this season due to his injury in the Community Shield, and it can perhaps be easy to forget that the German is now in his fourth year at the Etihad. Within this time, he has created an incredibly impressive record of 39 goals and 45 assists for the club, which begs the question as to why City are so reluctant to tie him down.

The evidence points to player, rather than club, while Bayern Munich's role cannot be understated. The Bundesliga champions have been unambiguous in their pursuit, seemingly happy to take a break from their stance as moral guardians of the game and openly court Sané via several public press conferences.

The tactic - however questionable - would appear to have worked. When August arrived, and with it the 2019/20 curtain-raising Community Shield game against Liverpool, the likelihood was that City, faced with a wantaway player approaching the last 18 months of his contract, would lose Sané by the end of the summer transfer window.

Instead, the 24-year-old would suffer the misfortune of rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament 11 minutes into the game against Liverpool and any intention he may have had to leave Manchester was now irrelevant.

Bayern's endless pursuit

Not wishing to overlook the personal pain and frustration no doubt experienced by Sané himself, the injury has not changed much. Bayern continue to brashly announce the importance of Sané to their rebuilding plans in the post-Robben/Ribery era.

Once a Bayern employee, Pep Guardiola continues to respond to questions regarding the player's future by reiterating his, and the club's desire, to extend Sané's contract beyond June 2021. Indeed, an extension offer has been on the table since late 2018 and you could forgive City for feeling a little bemused.

In contrast to those of the Bayern and the Sky Blues, Sané's thoughts are left to speculation. It is not difficult to see the attraction that returning to Germany would hold for him. He is being told he would be a defining part of the German champions' attempts to emerge from a period of relative transition and push to win a first Champion's League since 2012/13.

And for all Guardiola's bullish public statements around Sané's importance to him and the team, his actions suggest otherwise. Last season, with Riyad Mahrez arriving in the summer, Sané started 29 games in all competitions and was substituted in over half of them (16). Even in Sané's best-performing season at City, in 2017/18, Sané would finish the full 90 minutes only 18 times from 41 starts.

What's happening behind the scenes?

There have also been concerns away from the pitch. It is rumoured that Guardiola was angry at Sané's decision to choose the German FA's preferred surgeon, Christian Fink, rather than City's trusted doctor, Ramon Cugat, following his knee injury in August.

This is not difficult to believe when you consider that during his role at Bayern, Guardiola was so exacting in his medical demands that Bayern's influential club doctor of 38 years, Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, quit after claiming he and his team had been blamed for the team's 3-1 Champions League defeat to Porto.

It's not only Guardiola that could be said to harbour reservations over Sané's level of commitment and attitude. Germany manager Joachim Löw left the player out of his 2018 World Cup squad, favouring Bayer Leverkusen's Julian Brandt, in spite of Sané's superb performances for Manchester City as they reached 100 points en route to winning the Premier League.

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What next?

For all the speculation that surrounds Sané's future, what is certain is that any ambitions he has will be dependent on successful rehabilitation from injury. Benjamin Mendy, Sané’s City teammate, ruptured his ACL in September 2017 and the pessimistic view is that he will struggle to be the same player again.

Prior to damaging his ACL at the 2006 World Cup, Michael Owen shared Sané's sprinter's pace - he was never as quick after. Michael Essien would go from winning the Champions League with Chelsea to playing for Panathinaikos within 3 years after suffering the same injury in 2011.

Any potential negotiations over a transfer away from Manchester - or an improved contract extending his stay - are postponed until April 1st at the earliest, following Sané's decision to cut ties with his current agency, DB Ventures; he will be represented by LIAN Sports going forward. However frustrating this may be for the two clubs, it is an opportunity for Sané to concentrate on playing football and demonstrate the reasons why two of Europe's best teams value him so highly.

By Michael Murphy


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