After over a year of speculation, Leroy Sane is set to leave Manchester City for Bayern Munich. The superstar German winger was about to complete a move before a tragic anterior cruciate ligament tear cost him his chance before this season. Although Manchester City have sold him for significantly less money than they would hope, the deal still gives them exactly what they need.
Leroy Sane Leaves Manchester City With Questions
Answering Why Leroy Sane is Leaving Manchester
The questions most Manchester City fans will have are why now and why so little in return? The answer, as always, is multifacet. The combination of Sane’s ACL tear, the market changes brought on by COVID-19, and his contract status is what allowed Bayern to get Sane for only €49 million-plus €11 million in add-ons.
Manchester City luckily got reachable add-ons into the deal. They get money if Sane wins the Bundesliga and the German Cup, along with the Champions League and German Player of the Year. There is a real chance they could get the full €60 million for Sane within a year or two.
The next question is; why right now? The biggest reason this deal got done now is Leroy Sane himself. The 24-year-old was looking forward to moving to Germany when he tore his ACL in the Community Shield last season. You can’t blame him for not wanting to risk another injury given the current circumstances in which he would be playing.
Leroy Sane: The Player
Sane wants to be a starter, and he certainly has the quality to do so. At City, Sane is not in that position, and likely would not be next season. He would be used as an impact substitute for the foreseeable future. But Pep Guardiola also has a couple of good reasons why he prefers Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and even Riyad Mahrez over Sane.
At his core, Sane is a left-footed, left-winger. Rather than a left-footer cutting inside like Bernardo or Riyad Mahrez, Sane is better when deployed on the left side. Although City had success with him and Sterling driving at the byline, Guardiola prefers his wingers to cut inside to allow space for overlapping full-backs.
The other main issue is the press. While Sane is a willing presser, he’s not as aggressive with the press as Guardiola wants from his wingers. This is something that could be a problem at Bayern. Hansi Flick has revolutionized Bayern in his 6+ months by doubling down on pressing tactics most of the squad learned while Pep Guardiola was still there. Sane will need to be a committed presser to play at Bayern given all their attacking options.
What Do Manchester City Do Next?
What does the transfer mean for Manchester City’s future? The club are in dire need of a strong defender, someone they can partner with Aymeric Laporte for next season, and it seems like Manchester City want to make Kalidou Koulibaly that man.
At his best, Koulibaly is the ideal defender for Manchester City. The 6’4” Senegalese defender has been a rock for Napoli since his move there in the summer of 2014. He’s a great one-on-one defender and is excellent in the air, two things City certainly need. Those aren’t the skills that make him so desirable for Pep Guardiola and co, though.
Koulibaly is an excellent recovery defender. He played his best football in Maurizio Sarri’s high press scheme, where he as asked to sweep up any and all counter-attacks against them. Even more impressive is his play on the ball. One of Koulibaly’s biggest strengths is how he dribbles out from the back with ease.
Very much like fellow Guardiola centre-backs, Gerard Pique and Jerome Boateng, Koulibaly loves coming forward with the ball. He has been known to push up and start counter-attacks for Napoli in spectacular fashion. The duality of being both a sweeper on the backline and a counter-attack starter is what makes him such an interesting option for Manchester City to spend their money.
Replacing Sane on the Wing
They will have to spend most of the money they made on Sane to pry Koulibaly from Napoli, which brings us to the last Leroy Sane question: how will Manchester City replace Sane on the wing? This is where it’s important to mention Phil Foden. The 19-year-old has already seen significant time in Sane’s position since the Premier League restarted.
Next season will no doubt be more of the same. The Sane transfer opens up more playing time for Foden, but he isn’t the only option. As The Athletic’s Sam Lee pointed out this week, Jayden Braaf has started training with the first team at Manchester City.
Braaf is a 17-year-old Dutch youth international who signed a few years ago from PSV Eindhoven’s academy. He has performed well for Manchester City’s development team in the Premier League 2, as well as putting in a strong showing at the 2019 U17 World Cup for the Netherlands.
Comparisons to former academy wingers like Jadon Sancho or Rabbi Matondo are easy, but Braaf is supposed to be another in that mould. If he’s getting first-team training in the current climate, it bodes well for his chances to be included in the squad next season.