You’d have to be insane not to love Sane
He’s had the proverbial ‘key to the door’ since last January and Leroy Sané has spent most of his 21st year unlocking opposition defences and more than justifying his £37m price tag.
In a Manchester City team bursting with flair, creativity and outstanding talent, Sané is arguably the most exciting prospect currently scaling new heights under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage.
He’s already blazed a trail as the fastest Premier League player ever – clocking up a blistering 22.05mph sprint against Chelsea back in late September – and he’s showing no signs of slowing down in his meteoric rise to the top of English and European football.
With 60 first team appearances and 17 goals scored for City, Sané is now terrifying the life out of full backs as an integral part of Guardiola’s seemingly unstoppable team.
An impressive debut campaign in 2016/17 led to the supremely talented German being one of six starlets shortlisted for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
He missed out on the accolade last time around, but his footballing peers in the Premier League will have precious few reasons not to vote for him in his second season.
That is, unless they opt to vote for either of his team mates instead, with Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus providing a serious challenge for the coveted crown as the most exciting young talent in the PL.
Quite honestly, with Premier League betting odds of 1/8 for the title, and the unstoppable form of City looking unlikely to end anytime soon, the side's players could also be making a clean sweep of all the English elite’s individual awards, too.
Not only has Sané contributed six league goals to the cause, this extraordinary German kid has also proven to be a genuine assist-meister, weighing in with an impressive six Premier League assists in the midst of flowing City attacking moves.
Pep certainly knew what he was getting for the money, when he tipped a knowing wink at the board to complete the signing 18 months ago.
However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Sané, especially when trying to impress such a demanding manager.
Pep expects the very best from each and every one of his players, every time they pull on the City shirt.
Despite having acclaimed Sané – then playing for Schalke against Guardiola’s Bayern Munich – as the ‘...most exciting young talent in the Bundesliga’ there is much for Leroy to take on board from the Catalan genius.
Poor form in the pre-season gave Guardiola reason to doubt his young pupil, with Sané starting just one of City’s opening five Premier League games.
Nevertheless, Sané responded superbly and rose to the challenge of getting back into Guardiola’s good books, repaying the trust and faith of his manager with stellar displays.
Beyond the goals and the assists, which often tend to be the most eye-catching statistics, it’s the little things that make an important difference and are just as important to Guardiola.
Always the perfectionist, Pep analyses everything from the touchline in meticulous detail during games, complete with animated body language and constant coaching from his technical area.
Sané is learning and improving at the same rate as his sprint times...fast!
His movement and runs now combine more fluidly with his teammates as Pep’s style of one and two touch pass and go play, scythes through the banks of opposing defenders.
Speed is one hell of an attribute in the modern game but it isn’t, and never will be, the be all and end all. It’s what you do with the tool of your trade – the ball – that matters most.
Sané is always looking to help maintain the momentum and flow of City attacks, comfortably switching through the gears with lightning pace one moment, or applying a considered pause the next.
Watching such performances of increased confidence and assuredness, it’s easy to overlook the fact Sané doesn’t turn 22 until January 11th.
He demonstrates a level of maturity far beyond his tender years.
Increasingly apparent within that maturity is his alertness and intelligence – the latter always a key ingredient when defining the attributes which distinguish the truly great players of the beautiful game.
Leroy is almost five years younger than the imperious Kevin De Bruyne and, although they occupy very different roles in Pep’s sumptuous and scintillating brand of football, it’s positively mind-boggling to imagine how good the 6ft attacking winger-cum-midfielder could become, especially under Guardiola's guidance.
It’s a tad premature to label the City number 19 as great in the making, but Sané certainly has all the hallmarks and potential to progress to the pinnacle of world football.
Speaking to a group of German football journalists after City’s Champions League tie with Borussia Moenchengladbach in September 2016, provided further insight into the perceptions of Sané.
The consensus was that the youngster from Essen possessed all the qualities usually associated with a German international footballer – technically sound, comfortable on the ball, a good team player and tactically savvy.
He did however differ from the norm in that he had a little bit of the ‘maverick’ in him – individualistic brilliance to take on and beat players – setting him apart from the bog standard Teutonic World Cup-winning type!
It’s impossible not to be enamoured by his possibilities, or to get swept along with the hype that inevitably follows, but it'd be madness to suggest Leroy Sané is anything but the real deal.
By David Walker