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Football: Great genes, good guidance give Leroy Sane the edge

Leroy Sane holding off Hull's Ahmed Elmohamady during Manchester City's 3-1 home win on Saturday. He has settled well into the Premier League after a tough beginning when he moved from Schalke.
Leroy Sane holding off Hull's Ahmed Elmohamady during Manchester City's 3-1 home win on Saturday. He has settled well into the Premier League after a tough beginning when he moved from Schalke.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • If you wonder how Leroy Sane manages to avoid falling on his face when he runs at defenders at breakneck speed, then all you need to do is look at his family tree.

Regina and Souleyman Sane have played a huge role in making the Manchester City forward one of the most feared young attackers in Europe.

Without their support and taxi service they provided from the family home in Essen to Schalke's training ground during the winger's formative years in Germany, Sane would not be the player that he is today.

But the pair did not just provide him with a loving home, hot meals and encouragement. They also supplied him with the DNA of a terrifying modern-day winger.

Sane, put simply, was born to run. In his heyday, Souleyman Sane was one of the quickest players in German football.

Regina Weber, as she was known before she married, is Germany's only female Olympic medal winner in rhythmic gymnastics after her third-place finish in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE

We have more of the ball so that means I have to think more about my positional play and improving in that area to make sure I make the most of the possession.

LEROY SANE, Manchester City's dashing young German forward, on adapting to the style of play at his new club.

"Yeah, I think I come from a good gene pool," says Sane, 21, whose younger brother Sidi, 13, is in the Schalke academy. "I have inherited pace from my dad and I have inherited balance from my mum."

With such a blend of athleticism and finesse, it is easy to see why the youth coaches at Schalke drew comparisons between Sane and Ryan Giggs. Just as was the case with the Welshman when he was in his pomp, it is almost impossible to stop Sane when he is in full flow.

Just ask Sam Byram, whose head must be still spinning from his desperate attempts to halt the German during City's 4-0 win at West Ham in February.

Kamil Glik still has no idea how Sane got past him to set up Raheem Sterling for City's first goal in their 5-3 victory over Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie later that month.

Even Kyle Walker, who is no slouch, struggled to keep pace with Sane during Tottenham's 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium in January, when the German scored.

That Sane has scored only eight goals and contributed three assists to City's free-scoring attack this season tells its own story, however. It has not been plain sailing for him.

"For a young player it can be difficult to make such a move," says Sane, who made his 14th Premier League start on Saturday against Hull. "It has been made easier by my mum visiting and the help of the club."

Problems arose on the pitch too. He played only a fleeting role in City's faultless start to the season in which they won their first 10 games. He floundered on his debut as a substitute in the derby win at Old Trafford and, as a result of a niggling hamstring injury, had to wait until Sept 21 to make his first start away to Swansea in the League Cup.

The physicality of the Premier League and a shift in style from Schalke's counter-attacking system to Pep Guardiola's possession-based approach also caused him other woes.

"It's different here because we have more of the ball so that means I have to think more about my positional play and improving in that area to make sure I make the most of the possession," he says.

But now he has found contentment on and off the pitch and off thanks to a pep talk at the City Football Academy from Guardiola, who could sense that life was becoming a struggle for the young German towards the end of last year.

With his new-found confidence, he does not feel any trepidation when the two-time Champions League-winning coach pulls him aside for one-to-one chats.

"We talk about my positional play a lot. It's more about doing my thing well in training," he says.

He still has a long way to go before he can become a City legend, but with his genetic make-up and Guardiola's guidance, there is nothing to suggest that his rapid rise will fall flat any time soon.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2017, with the headline 'Great genes, good guidance give Sane the edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe