The 20-year-old moved to the Etihad Stadium for £37 million this summer but needs more time build up his confidence and adjust to his new life in Manchester
Yaya Toure may have earned his most unlikely of Manchester City recalls at the weekend but there is another man, at the opposite end of his Blues career, still waiting to fully grasp his opportunity.
Whereas Toure took full advantage by scoring both goals in the 2-1 win at Crystal Palace, Leroy Sane is yet to make an impact at his new club and is currently struggling to adapt to his new surroundings.
The 20-year-old cost £37 million in the summer but little has been seen of the pace and trickery he displayed in two precocious seasons at Schalke that convinced Pep Guardiola to make him part of his City revolution.
Guardiola remains certain that things will work out for the youngster in the long run, but his limited game time can be attributed to a failure to settle into Manchester life.
Sane’s mother and other family members have been coming to the north west in a bid to help him find his feet, but it has not been an easy transition.
He has been left out of squads altogether in recent weeks and even when he has made the bench he has not been thrown into the action.
Guardiola and some of the City players believe Sane’s struggles are rooted in something of a crisis of confidence.
After missing the start of the campaign through injury, the winger was given a chance in late September and early October, but has only shown the briefest of flashes of his ability.
A late cameo in City’s impressive 2-1 victory at Old Trafford and an assist after coming off the bench against Borussia Monchengladbach hinted at more to come but his full debut, at Swansea City in the EFL Cup, was disappointing.
In a junior City side, the costliest of all the club’s youngsters to start that night looked inhibited and rarely troubled an understrength Swansea line-up.
He was back on the bench after that but was handed consecutive starts against Everton and Southampton, where he was relied upon as virtually City’s sole attacking outlet on the right-hand side.
The Aleksandar Kolarov sweeping pass from left to right has been a feature of City’s play this season and in those two games it was Sane who was the target. With Guardiola playing three at the back, Sane had little support on the right flank but would try to take the game to the two men, at least, who were trying to stop him.
His trickery should have earned a penalty early on against Everton and he showed in the first half against Southampton – and with that assist against Gladbach - that he is adept at wriggling through challenges on the goal line before cutting the ball back for a team-mate.
He also got an assist against the Saints but while he has shown what he is capable of in patches, those occasions have been all too rare.
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At Old Trafford in the EFL Cup game he looked inhibited yet again and was substituted just after the hour mark, and has not played since.
Having missed the last four games, it is only right to wonder what is going on behind the scenes. A £37m summer signing in the same circumstances at another big Premier League club – perhaps one not too far away from the Etihad Stadium– would have attracted much more attention.
Fortunately for Sane he has avoided the usual suggestions that City may have bought a dud, or that the manager does not fancy him.
Guardiola certainly does rate the youngster, but when asked about his situation on Friday, the Catalan admitted there are one or two short-term concerns.
“He is a young player, 19, 20 years old, he is living here, his mum and family come to visit him. Sometimes you need a bit more time to adapt, to know the way that we play, to feel, ‘Ok I am here, I am good enough to play.’
It suggests Sane is not only taking time to grasp Guardiola’s system, but that he does not currently believe in himself.
Ilkay Gundogan, a fellow Germany international, has been trying to help him settle and also believes the youngster is confident does know his strengths, his demeanor may be holding him back.
“It’s normal,” Gundogan said earlier this month. “I believe that Leroy’s character is strong enough to cope with the situation.
“He’s confident and knows his strengths. You can see that he’s a bit shy, but he’s only 20, just like I was when I joined Dortmund from Nurnberg back then. That’s why I know how it feels. He will improve. He gets all the support he needs from me.”
Although the current situation is somewhat concerning for the City fans who so warmly greeted his arrival this summer, Sane has time on his side.
Guardiola’s overhaul of the City squad was only part completed in his first transfer window and more arrivals are expected ahead of the 2017-18 campaign. But Sane’s promise, coupled with the continuous rise of Raheem Sterling, means the City boss can spend his budget on the defenders he so badly needs – unless Lionel Messi becomes available.
And unlike other young players, such as Marlos Moreno and Oleksandr Zinchenko (who may never kick a ball for City in a competitive match), Sane has been thrown straight into the first team fold.
That is because Guardiola has no doubts that Sane can be a fixture in the City line-up for years to come.
“He didn’t come here for three months, he came here for five or six years,” Guardiola added. “He is a huge talent, his physical condition is fast one-against-one, I just want to help him to put it in the right moment and show us his qualities.”
City have already improved vastly under Guardiola but it is clear there is more to come. Sane may not have started as well as many of his team-mates, but there is a confidence behind the scenes that he too will reach his potential. He just needs time.