2017 22under22 Countdown – #7: Leroy Sane

“You don’t want to give too much praise to a young player, but in a few years he could be up there with the best… He reminds me a little bit of Gareth Bale – strong and powerful and he can be decisive with the ball with assists and goals.”
– Gael Clichy


Date of Birth: January 11th, 1996 (21 years old)
Nationality: German
Position: Winger/Attacking Midfielder
Club Appearances: 87 (22 goals)
International Appearances: 6
EiF Rating: 66.5

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.*


Next up in the EiF 22under22 Countdown is German international Leroy Sane, who plays as a winger for Manchester City. Sane began his career as a five year old in the youth academy of SG Wattenscheid 09, his father’s old team, before moving to Schalke’s academy, then to Bayer Leverkusen, and finally back to Schalke where he made is senior debut in 2014. However, Sane did not get regular playing time until the 2015-16 season, which saw him record an impressive 42 appearances and 9 goals for Schalke, drawing widespread attention to himself throughout the year.

In the summer of 2016, Sane joined Manchester City for a fee of more than $40 million despite having only played one year as a regular in the top flight of German football and only being 20 years old. Yet, Sane has already become a regular starter for the Manchester side, so far having appeared 30 times and scoring 9 times for Pep Guardiola’s side. His play even made him a candidate for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award, given to the best player under 23 years old in English football. However, Sane’s international impact has been fairly limited, only appearing six times for Germany and only once in legitimate competition as a substitute during Euro 2016.


Strengths


Sane
Sane celebrating after scoring the opener in a 2-2 draw with Tottenham (Photo: Goal)

One of the first things that stands out about Sane is his pace on and off the ball. He is one of the quickest and most explosive players on any pitch he steps on and he uses that to generate great chances on the counterattack. Coupled with great technicality on the ball, his speed and dribbling ability allow him to make great runs into the attacking third both with and without the ball. Sane is also exceptional in one-on-one situations, using his speed to blow by generally larger and slower defenders. In big games, Sane does not shy away from high pressure situations, perhaps best exemplified by his scoring or assisting in three of the four games Schalke played against Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund during the 2015-16 Bundesliga season. He also scored a lovely goal against Real Madrid in the Champions League knockout stage to announce himself to those who did not already know him.

Sane is also able to finish with both feet from all areas of the attacking third and is not afraid to take shots that many other players would avoid, keeping pressure on defenses. However, Sane also possesses great vision and passing ability, allowing him to pinpoint crosses from his natural home on the wing. Additionally, although he is most frequently used as a winger, Sane is also highly versatile and can play in almost any attacking position, including as an attacking midfielder or secondary striker.


Weaknesses


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Sane had the opportunity to test himself against some of the world’s best at Euro 2016 (Photo: Business Insider)

Sane’s main weakness is that he can be a rather selfish player at times, choosing to focus solely on carving out a shot for himself when on the ball as opposed to looking to set up his teammates or move the ball into a more promising position. In these situations, Sane will often give the ball away when he should instead pass to a teammate or be patient and search for a better opportunity for himself. Indeed, Sane only had a passing completion percentage of 77% while in the Bundesliga and is often dispossessed. While he certainly has the license to take players on, a more consistent rate of success when doing so is necessary for Sane to become an elite winger. However, this selfishness is most likely a reflection of his youth and as Sane develops as a player, he should become more capable of distributing the ball. Sane’s final weakness is his lack of consistency. Often times, Sane will have a huge impact in one game but be more or less anonymous in the next. Again, as he gains experience and develops his ability and mentality, these problems should begin to fade away naturally.


Sane has wowed for Manchester City in his first season wearing the sky blue uniform, demonstrating that his $40 million+ fee was well worth the cost for the Citizens. But if Sane is able to develop as a player, especially improving on his willingness to forego shots or runs for himself, he will be able to truly become a great for Manchester City and the German national team. Sane is a raw talent and nobody is sure of what heights he can reach as a player, but everyone agrees that he has shown glimpses of world-class play on the wing. He is able to generate opportunities for himself and his teammates, execute pinpoint passes, and finish from any position in the final third. Leroy Sane is already a great player, and he still has plenty of time to develop into a once in a generation winger.