Leroy Sané deservingly took home the PFA Young Player of the Year award after an impressive second season under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. With a few games left, he’s sitting at 9 goals and 12 assists within the league and will certainly be looking to get into double digits for goals before the season is over. In his first season at City, he bagged 5 goals and registered 3 assists for the Blues in what was a solid debut season. The major difference between last season and this one, was Leroy’s decision making ability.
Pep was quoted recently saying, “taking the decision in the right moment. That is the most difficult thing in football.” The decisions that individual players have to make every game are vastly different depending on their position and where they find themselves on the field. Sané was terrific this season in deciding when to take on his defender, when to step on it and find a simple pass, or look for the killer ball to slice open a backline. There were too many times last season where he would choose the wrong option, often leading to turnovers and frustration. This season, Sané showed a newborn confidence in his decision making. He would play simple and get the ball to the playmakers around him such as David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, until the space had opened up. Within 7 or 8 passes, Sané would find himself with the ball at his feet again, this time with more grass in front of him and usually looking at an isolated outside back who had little chance of stopping him and possibly a little bit of urine running down their leg. It was in these moments where he’d skin the outside back and get himself into extremely dangerous areas for cutback balls, shots or traditional crosses.
Sané has always had elite pace, watch one game and I’m sure you would notice how quick the young german is within a couple minutes. His dribbling ability complements his pace in a deadly manner. He can glide past defenders with ease, barely losing pace as he changes directions. Combine those two things to the fact that he has no trouble striking a ball with his left foot, (even hitting set pieces when De Bruyne is not on the field) and you’ve got yourself a nightmare to deal with as a defender. When Sané was at his best this season, I’m not sure if there was an outside back in the premier league that could deal with him. However, a duel between Sané and fellow teammate and PFA Team of the Year right back, Kyle Walker, would be a matchup I’d pay a lot of money to see.
Sané should feel unlucky that he wasn’t chosen for the PFA Team of the Year given he was the only player nominated for PFA Player of the Year that didn’t make the Team of the Year. He could have very easily been given the nod for the traditional left wing spot, where his fellow teammate Sergio Aguero was put. Also, Christian Eriksen was nominated in the midfield, even though Sané had the same number of goals (when the team was announced) and two more assists than Eriksen. I don’t think Leroy will lose too much sleep over it though, given the fact that he won the PFA Young Player of the Year award and was a massive piece of one of the most electrifying teams in Europe who will end the season with two trophies. Not bad for a 22 year old.
Best way to stop Sane^.
Being only 22 years old, Sané definitely has much room to grow. There were a few times this season that his consistency came into question, enough for him to get benched by Pep in a couple big games. It didn’t help his case that Bernardo Silva came into form right as Sané was having a rough spell. He also didn’t score a single goal in the champions league this season, and had quite possibly his worst two games of his career against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter finals. There are still glimpses where he looks lost out there, and that can be expected given his age.
Overall, Sané is a force to be reckon with and I think he’ll be present in Russia this summer with Germany. Whether or not he will see many minutes is up in the air, as Germany’s national team is stacked with talented wingers including Julian Draxler, the injury-prone Marco Reus, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze who rotates between the central midfield and the wing, Andre Schürrle and more. I envy Joachim Löw about many things in life, but choosing the starting lineup for Germany is not one of those things. Sané can keep flourishing under Pep Guardiola; and as he grows older he can get even stronger and possibly even faster. The way I see it, his floor is somewhere near former Cityzen, Jesus Navas who had all the pace in the world but lacked scoring ability and had a low football IQ. On the other hand, his ceiling could very well be a left-footed Cristiano Ronaldo. I very much doubt that Sané will be able to put up Ronaldo-type stats, but he checks off all the boxes to be an elite winger.
Does he have pace? Yes, and plenty of it
Can he score goals? Yes, his finishing ability is already beyond his years
Can he beat defenders off the dribble? Absolutely, Sané feasted on every outside back the Premier League had to offer
Can he distribute properly? Yes, the 12 assists thus far this season answer that with little doubt
Does he have the work ethic? Yes, Sané has defensive responsibilities in Pep’s system which has caused no trouble for him
Does he have the physicality? Yes, Sané is 6 feet tall and a 170 lbs and doesn’t shy away from a hard tackle or an aerial duel
As a Manchester City fan, I cannot wait to see how Leroy Sané continues to grow.