Premier League followers were baffled by Leroy Sané’s omission from Germany’s World Cup squad this summer, and were quick to bring it up following their poor performance in Russia.
The 2014 World Cup winners were not themselves in their group games, losing to Mexico in the opener and looking uncharacteristically out of sorts in their crunch game against South Korea in the final game.
Germany have a talented group of players but appeared to be lacking something as they slumped to the bottom of Group F and headed home early.
A lack of pace was the obvious criticism of a side which had left out one of the most explosive players in world football, but even though they had some of those qualities in the shape of Julian Brandt and Julian Draxler, they didn’t use them well.
This, plus the nature of their overall performance suggests Sané wouldn’t have made much difference, but despite not impressing for Die Mannschaft in his 12 caps to date, he would have provided them with something different — a wildcard off the bench in their time of need.
Sané’s omission was far from the only reason for Germany’s early exit, and the winger will have to be at the top of his game again at club level this season to make it impossible for Joachim Löw, who looks set to remain in charge, to leave him out.
Another Manchester City player, and member of the Belgium side which finished third in the World Cup, Kevin De Bruyne, was rightly lauded for his performances last season. He was one of the standout players in the Premier League and with his conversion to central midfielder complete, or free-eight as he calls his position, the Belgian was able to direct games, controlling the opposition as well as his own side.
De Bruyne led the league when it came to assists, with 16, but what may go under the radar after the dust settled on Manchester City’s convincing title win, is that Sané was only one behind with 15 assists of his own.
His ten goals meant he racked up double figures in both columns, and contributed directly to more goals than his more lauded team-mate.
This isn’t to diminish De Bruyne’s contribution, as his game is often about the build-up play and the pass before the assist as much as it is racking up stand-out numbers, but it does show how productive Sané was for Pep Guardiola’s side last season.
He was also one of the most productive players in the league when it came to beating his man, with only Wilfred Zaha, and dribbler-extraordinaire, Eden Hazard, racking up more than his 85 successful take-ons.
Germany could definitely have used some of this as they looked to break down opposition defences in Russia, and the ability to take opposition players out of the game can make a big difference when it comes to creating clearer chances on goal.
Guardiola had words of encouragement for Sané as Manchester City set off to the United States on their pre-season tour, suggesting that being snubbed by his national team should act as motivation to produce an even better season this time around.
“Leroy has to accept that this decision may make him stronger,” said Guardiola.
“He’s so young, and in two years there is another European Championships and then in four years another World Cup. I think it’s the past now. The national trainer decided what’s the best for the national team.
“Leroy has to accept it and move forward. He has the chance to show the national team from Germany and first of all us, he has another season to show his quality. He has to improve his game, try to keep the levels he showed last season. We are so happy to have him here.”
Manchester City have added Riyad Mahrez to their ranks as they look to compete on multiple fronts yet again. The media were discussing a possible quadruple for the club last season, but this petered out following defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup, and Liverpool in the Champions League.
Mahrez and Sané are both left-footed attacking players, but the new man tends to prefer cutting inside off the right, while Sané’s two-footedness has seen him used as a double threat, somewhere between a traditional winger and an inside forward on the left.
This means they could well line up in the starting XI at the beginning of the season, especially with several other players, including Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Sergio Agüero, and Gabriel Jesus, set to arrive late for pre-season following their participation in the World Cup.
This is the silver lining for Sané, and will allow him to hit the ground running at the start of the new season. It will also increase his responsibility as he’ll probably be relied upon not just to create, but also to score in these opening games while last season’s top scorers, Agüero and Sterling, get up to speed.
Löw will be looking on during this period and will be hoping to give the 22-year-old a chance should he impress again for his club. Such is the talent at their disposal, Germany do not require a complete rebuild, but they could do with sprucing up.
Who better for this job than one of the best young players in the world.