A 9-year-old Leroy Sane joined Schalke’s youth academy in 2005, an academy renowned for producing some of the biggest stars in world football. Sane’s love for football came from watching his father. Former Bundesliga and Senegal star Souleymane Sane played a great role in the winger’s development. Souleymane, who played as a striker, scored 51 goals in 174 Bundesliga games. Leroy’s dream, when he joined Schalke, was to emulate his father. He not only wanted to become a Bundesliga star but also wished to play as a striker.
Sane’s journey to stardom began with a brief spell at Bayer Leverkusen. After returning to Schalke and winning the U19 German Championship, he signed his first professional contract with the Royal Blues. Sane made his debut for Schalke on Match Day 31 of the 2013/14 season when he came on as a substitute for fellow young talent Max Meyer.
It was in the 2014/15 season that Sane started getting regular minutes. He was mostly deployed at right wing although he also played at left wing and sometimes in attacking midfield. On December 13, 2014, the left-footed starlet grabbed his first Bundesliga goal against Cologne. The young man’s first goal was a sumptuous header. He made a total of 13 appearances in the league that season and was voted the Bundesliga’s newcomer (rookie) of the season. Thus began his ascent to the very top. A new hero was born in Gelsenkirchen.
But it was in the Champions League that Sane managed to grab the attention of the football world. Schalke, who lost the first leg of their Champions League last-sixteen tie 2-0 to Real Madrid, went to Spain with very little hope. Roberto Di Matteo’s men recorded a famous 3-4 win at the Santiago Bernabéu, albeit it was not enough to take them to the quarterfinals. Sane came off the bench to score a beautifully curled shot, beyond the reaches of Iker Casillas and after sailing past Luka Modric as if he wasn’t even there. Better yet he almost did it again but the veteran keeper responded well and saved the curling shot that time. You would’ve said ‘this kid is special’ after seeing that short but impressive performance.
Sane’s form and ability kept on getting better in 2015/16, his last season at Schalke. He made 33 appearances in the league in which he scored and assisted 8 goals each. After that Pep Guardiola’s Man City came calling and the young German happily packed his bags and moved to England.
But life in the Premier League wasn’t easy. In the first half of 2016/17 Sane often struggled to maintain his form and to earn regular minutes. This prompted wide spread criticism from the merciless English media. But after January, Sane silenced his doubters with strings of incredible performances. Guardiola even said that Sane was ‘like a new signing’ after the winger’s new found confidence.
Perhaps the game that flipped Sane’s Career in the Premier League upside down was the home game against Arsenal. Sane managed to grab a goal in that game. He also out ran and out maneuvered Hector Bellerin, a full back renowned for his speed.
It all came easy for Sane after that and this season has been no different. People are quick to praise De Bruyne and David Silva for Man City’s amazing season, but Sane is also playing a vital role in Guardiola’s exciting team. His dribbling skill and pace have made him a lethal weapon, especially when the team is on the break. His ability to change direction and increase his speed in an instant is also incredible. His assist against Newcastle in Man City’s 3-1 win comes to mind.
You can clearly see the improvements he is showing under Pep. He is no longer only a speed wizard. He is also a calm player who reads the game well, a player who understands when to pass and when to break away with speed. Sane is blossoming in to one of the world’s best wingers in front of our eyes. And every time you see him play you will understand that the best is yet to come from this amazing talent.
Sane made his international debut for Germany on 13th of November 2015 against France. He was also part of the squad that travelled to Euro 2016 and is expected to play a key role in Russia 2018.
Even at a young age of 22 Sane is inspiring other players. Federico Chiesa, a 20-year old winger for Fiorentina enjoying a good season, told Corriere dello Sport: “Leroy Sané, I really like him. He plays for Manchester City along with other great players like Kevin De Bruyne. They play beautiful football and I like how he plays.”
Sane already has 11 goals in all competitions this season. He is also on the way to clinch the Premier League title and is eyeing the Champions League.Things are getting bettter and better for the young German and it will be exciting to see what the future hold for him.
Writer: Brook Genene/@brookge