Bayern Munich had the patience to wait a full year to get their man, but in Leroy Sane they saw someone who could be the face of the club for years to come. For one reason or another, the German winger’s career had stagnated at Manchester City and the Allianz Arena looked to be the perfect place for him to truly fulfil his undeniable potential.
However, Sane’s first season as a Bayern Munich player has only added to the questions around the 25-year-old. There have been glimpses of the brilliance that persuaded the German champions to pay €45m for him last summer, but Sane has frustrated and infuriated just as often as he has shone.
Sane’s performance in Bayern Munich’s 3-2 away win over Wolfsburg was reflective of his recent form. Deployed on the right side by Hansi Flick, Sane was wasteful in front of goal, spurning one particularly golden opportunity on the half-hour mark, scooping over the bar from 12 yards out when he should have found the back of the net. Two more chances were also passed up as he charted a higher Expected Goals number (0.33) than any other Bayern Munich player besides Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
It was a similar story against PSG in Tuesday night’s Champions League quarter final second leg. While Sane didn’t have many scoring chances of his own, he was presented with a number of opportunities to set up teammates in the final third. Time and time again, though, he made the wrong decision.
While Sane’s attitude and commitment was questioned during his time at City, his final product was one of the better aspects of his game, notching 10 goals and 10 assists in his last full Premier League season. Now, though, the 25-year-old appears to have lost his conviction in front of goal.
Leroy Sane und Jerome Roussillon kämpfen um den Ball
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It’s not all Sane’s own fault, though. Notable against PSG was that the 25-year-old was afforded a lot of space to isolate Abdou Diallo. However, Sane’s Bayern Munich’s teammates were frequently too slow to switch the play out to Sane, allowing PSG more time to organise by the time he did receive the ball.
In basketball terms, Sane is an isolation dribbler. He is most effective when given space to run at opponents one-on-one, but Bayern Munich have yet to make the most of this skill set. In fact, Flick seems to want Sane to cut inside and play more centrally. In this area of the pitch, he is prone to taking too many touches of the ball.
What’s more, Flick has most commonly used Sane out of position this season, deploying him on the right when his preferred role is on the left. That 18-year-old Jamal Musiala started on that side against Wolfsburg reveals how far down the pecking order Sane is in Flick’s mind for that position, with Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry both out injured.
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Musiala made the most of his opportunity, bagging a brace in the 3-2 victory to take Bayern Munich seven points clear at the top of the Bundesliga. He is now the second top scoring teenager in Europe’s top five leagues this season, perhaps justifying Flick’s decision to play him on the left over Sane.
There is no doubting Sane’s natural ability, but Bayern Munich have yet to find a way to harness that talent. The Bavarians are on the brink of a generational transition with David Alaba and Jerome Boateng already confirmed to be on the way out this summer. Others will follow in the next few transfer windows, but Sane’s troubles show it isn’t always as easy as throwing talent on to a football pitch and hoping it shines through. Bayern Munich were expected to see the best of Sane, but they have so far seen more of his flaws.