Leroy Sane’s season could hardly have got off to a worse start. In last year’s Community Shield, the traditional curtain-raiser for a new campaign in England, the Manchester City winger was withdrawn with just 13 minutes on the clock after suffering a knee injury. Not only would the damage to his anterior cruciate ligament rule him out of action until the new year, but it also put paid to his chances of joining Bayern Munich before the summer transfer market closed for business.
In the end, Sane barely featured last term. His intention to move to Bayern at the end of the season had been clear since the summer, and while injury was a key reason for his prolonged absence from the City team, Pep Guardiola also preferred to give opportunities to other players within his squad. Riyad Mahrez, in particular, stepped up and was one of the team’s standout performers in 2019/20, with fellow winger Sane restricted to just 11 minutes of soccer in the Premier League.
It was an underwhelming end to what was a broadly successful four-year stay at the Etihad Stadium. Sane joined City from Schalke back in 2016 for an initial fee of £37 million, potentially rising to £46.5 million if various add-ons were fulfilled. He showed signs of promise in his debut campaign, but it was only in his second season in Manchester that he made a sustained impact as part of Guardiola’s system. Sane was voted PFA Young Player of the Year in 2017/18 after his 10 goals and 15 assists helped City win the title with a record-breaking haul of 100 points.
Although he was rotated in and out of the team more often, Sane remained an important figure as City retained their crown the following year. He once again reached double figures for both goals and assists with 10 of each, and in the process convinced Bayern that he should be one of their leading transfer targets. The German giants had to wait until this July to complete the deal, but they will now hope Sane can make up for his lost season when the Bundesliga resumes this weekend.
Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery – collectively known as ‘Robbery’ – were integral to how Bayern played for the best part of a decade. Ribery moved to the Allianz Arena from Marseille in 2007 and was joined by Robben two years later after his exit from Real Madrid. Under successive managers, including Louis van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes, Guardiola, and Carlo Ancelotti, the two wingers helped Bayern dominate the German game and, in 2012/13, winning the Champions League.
As Robben and Ribery entered their early 30s, the Bayern hierarchy knew they would have to plan for their eventual departures. Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman arrived in the summer of 2015 to provide alternatives to the aging but the legendary duo, yet Robben and Ribery only left four years later – the former has returned to Groningen, his first club, and the latter now plies his trade with Fiorentina in Serie A.
Last season was therefore Bayern’s first without their long-serving wingers. Serge Gnabry stepped up brilliantly, scoring 21 goals and providing 12 assists in the Bundesliga and the Champions League as the Bavarians won both. The former Arsenal forward tended to operate on the right, while Coman – who was not quite as productive, with seven goals and four assists in those two competitions – and Ivan Perisic shared duties on the left.
Perisic has now returned to Inter – he was only on loan at Bayern – and Sane has been brought in to replace the Croatia international. It will be interesting to see how Hansi Flick structures his attack this term. While most big clubs use inverted wingers these days, the Bayern boss could play with the right-footed Gnabry on the right and the left-footed Sane on the left, similar to the way in which Bayern operated under Pep Guardiola. Alternatively, he could deploy them on the opposite flanks, as the club did with Robben and Ribery when Heynckes led them to the treble in 2013.
The minimum objective for Bayern at the start of every season is the same: win the Bundesliga title and the DFB-Pokal, and reach the latter stages of the Champions League. As the reigning European champions, they will be looking to do more than simply advance to the semi-finals in 2020/21 – and if you fancy them to sweep all before them in every competition, take advantage of DraftKings Sportsbook odds of +1100 on Bayern winning another treble.
Each Bundesliga team plays 34 games a season, compared to 38 in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, and Ligue 1. That may aid Bayern’s efforts to triumph on multiple fronts, but rotation will still be vital for Flick, particularly as the campaign is getting underway about a month later than normal. Sane will hope to be involved in the biggest matches but he is unlikely to feature every time Bayern takes to the field.
Nevertheless, the former Schalke winger – he is set to take on his former club when Bayern host David Wagner’s side on Friday – has the quality to immediately become one of the team’s key players. A potential partnership with the superb Canadian left-back Alphonso Davies is exciting, with Sane poised to bring an extra dose of speed and creativity to the Bayern frontline. A terrific dribbler who is usually very direct when he has the ball at his feet, Sane has proved adept at both scorings and setting up goals over the last few years.
In 2018/19, his best season as a City player, the Germany international registered the second-most assists in the Premier League, finishing just one behind team-mate Kevin De Bruyne in the top spot. Now back in the Bundesliga, the 24-year-old will have his eye in the first place – he is available at +1800 with DraftKings Sportsbook to provide more assists than any other player in the upcoming campaign.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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