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How Nagelsmann saved Sane's Bayern Munich career

3:00 AM EST 12/23/21
Leroy Sane Bayern Munich 2021-22
The winger was booed by his own fans at the start of the season but is now showing why the Bavarians paid €49m to sign him from Manchester City

At half-time during Bayern Munich's August Bundesliga clash with Koln, Leroy Sane was taken off.

Nobody could argue that his substitution was undeserved.

The Germany winger had lost possession 11 times in the opening 45 minutes and was regularly booed by the home fans at the Allianz Arena.

New Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann decided to spare him any more misery and brought Jamal Musiala on for the second half with the scoreline at 0-0.

Within five minutes, Musiala had provided an assist for Robert Lewandowski. Bayern went on to triumph 3-2

– their first league victory of the season.

"I noticed the whistles," Nagelsmann said after the game. "Our fans should support the players. There's not a player in the world who doesn't like to put in a top performance."

That unfortunate episode could have been the final nail in the coffin for Sane's Bayern career, having failed to live up to his €49m (£45m/$55m) price tag during his first season back in Germany.

There was certainly no disguising that six Bundesliga goals in 32 games was a poor return for an attacker in a team that had scored 99 times in 2020-21.

Bayern fans demand more from their forwards, especially having been spoiled over the past decade with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery playing on the flanks.

However, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge saw a distinct comparison between Sane's situation and that of Robben a decade earlier.

"Arjen wanted to leave us, but we rebuilt him and held onto him," the former Bayern CEO told Bild Live. "A year later, he became the match-winner against (Borussia) Dortmund [in the 2013 Champions League final].

"Sane had a bad season and European Championship, which, of course, doesn't help.

"But Nagelsmann must now try to get him back on track."

Having played him on the right wing in the first two games of the season, Nagelsmann started Sane at left wing for the first round of the DFB-Pokal, just three days after he had been booed against Koln.

The opposition may have been amateurs, but the benefits of playing Sane in his preferred position were immediately obvious.

After pne goal and two assists, the 25-year-old was on the way to getting his confidence back.

An assist off the bench followed against Hertha Berlin and then Sane was reinstated into the starting XI to take on RB Leipzig after the international break.

Once again playing on the left-hand side, something he had done only infrequently under Hansi Flick, Sane opened his account for the season and has played every game since.

At the winter break, he now has 11 goals and 11 assists in 26 games in all competitions, including five goals in the Champions League as Bayern won all six group games.

Those 22 goal involvements are already more than he contributed in the entirety of last season and he is the only Bayern player to reach double figures in both goals and assists so far in 2021-22.

Unsurprisingly, Sane has also won over those who turned on him earlier in the campaign, as underlined by the fact that he was voted the Bayern fans' player of the month for September, October and November.

He has impressed his opponents, too, with Borussia Monchengladbach's summer signing Manu Kone singling him out as the best player he's played against since moving to Germany.

"There are many top players in the Bundesliga. But the only one who really amazed me is Leroy Sane," Kone told Sport Bild. "He can do everything, is lightning quick, technically strong. I'm impressed by him."

Sane has played every game for Bayern this season, having taken time to recover from an injury that ruled him out of most of the 2019-20 campaign with Manchester City.

That spell on the sidelines had an impact on his debut season in Munich, as he didn't play a full 90 minutes in any competition until December 2020.

"I'm really happy for Leroy that things are going so well for him," former Bayern team-mate Jerome Boateng told GOAL.

"He's a great guy and it's important for him to feel comfortable and relaxed. Maybe he lacked that a bit in his first season.

"He was a bit cramped. But you also have to remember that he was coming back from a long injury."

Sane's success this season is not simply down to the fact he has played on the left rather than the right. Under Flick, he had a few games on the left side of the pitch and failed to make the same sort of impact he is having now.

Instead, Nagelsmann's tactics have meant that he is now playing as a hybrid winger-attacking midfielder.

Alphonso Davies has been given licence to roam forward from left-back and provides width down the flank. As a result, Sane has permission to roam inside and play more centrally behind Lewandowski.

This drags opposition defences out of shape, but also provides additional space for Sane on the ball. He is most dangerous when he can run at players, using his technical ability and clever movement to find gaps for himself and others.

Nagelsmann also made Sane's plight a priority when he arrived, giving him extra time and instruction on the training ground to help turn his Bayern career around.

"I always work hard. I knew that there was a lot of pressure on me," Sane told DAZN.

"I just try to focus on myself. Back then, I did not perform well. I just accepted that and wanted to give something back."

Now, Sane is one of Bayern's most important players.

He's gone from being booed by his own supporters to being one of their favourite players in just five months. And he has Nagelsmann to thank for that remarkable transformation.