Leroy Sané scared Real Madrid and continues to shine for Schalke
The Scout's Notebook this week looks at one of the rising stars in the Bundesliga who gave Real Madrid a fright in the Champions League ...
Champions League debuts don't get much better than the one Leroy Sané enjoyed against Real Madrid last Tuesday. Given his opportunity by an early injury to Eric Choupo-Moting, he produced a truly superb strike from the edge of the area to bring Schalke back to 3-3 in the middle of a pulsating match that so nearly saw them complete a remarkable turnaround against the competition holders.
Afterward, he described it as a "dream come true," although he admitted it was tinged with a hint of regret, given that Schalke were unable to progress to the last eight at Madrid's expense.
The 19-year-old experienced similar feelings after scoring another well-taken goal in his first league start for the club in their 2-2 draw away to Hertha Berlin on Saturday. Yet on a purely individual level, it has been a fine week for the young forward.
Sané was born in Essen, Germany in January 1996. It came as little surprise when the son of German rhythmic gymnast champion Regina Weber and Senegalese international footballer Souleyman Sané showed good athletic ability from an early age, and he was signed by Schalke at the age of nine. He left three years later to join Bayer Leverkusen, only to return in 2011 and quickly establish himself as a highly promising player.
The then 18-year-old made his Bundesliga debut against Stuttgart at the back end of last season after impressing for the U19 side that reached the semifinals of the UEFA Youth League. He has been used more regularly as a substitute during the current campaign and notched his first senior goal for the club in a 2-1 home defeat to Köln in December.
Sané is one of a number of excellent young players currently involved in Schalke's first team squad. Kaan Ayhan represents the 1994 generation, Leon Goretzka, Max Meyer and goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther were born in 1995, while Sané and Felix Platte -- who impressed off the bench in the first leg against Real Madrid -- are from the current youth side. At 21, Julian Draxler is already in his fifth season of top-flight football.
Sané signed a contract through to June 2017 last summer, and at the time stated that he was "really proud to be able to continue playing for a club as big as Schalke."
He has scored twice in his five appearances for Germany's U19 side and will be part of Markus Sorg's squad for the upcoming European U19 Championship qualifiers against Slovakia, Republic of Ireland and the Czech Republic at the end of the month.
Sané is a confident left-footed forward or attacking midfielder, with good close control, a swift burst of acceleration and a powerful shot. At this stage of his career, he looks far more comfortable facing goal than when asked to play as a back-to-goal reference, where he doesn't yet have the necessary strength to impose himself. He likes to drift into the right channel and cut inside from there onto his favoured foot.
- Confident and composed in front of goal
- Good close control
- Powerful acceleration
- Not yet strong enough to be an effective back-to-goal reference
- Lack of awareness of teammates' positioning
Tackling: He has won 63.6 percent of the 11 tackles he has attempted so far this season and has appeared willing to help out defensively when possible.
Marking: Schalke's set up means their two strikers are not required to do much tracking back so it's difficult to judge how disciplined Sané would be if given a specific defensive brief.
Heading: His first senior goal for Schalke came via his head and at 183cm tall, he should be capable of competing aerially. He has won a third of his limited number of aerial duels to date.
Close control: Possesses a good first touch. He can be outmuscled and does have a tendency to try and do too much himself without seeking the support of his teammates.
Passing: Capable of linking well with his teammates in close quarters, as he displayed with a couple of lovely interchanges with Meyer in the match against Real Madrid. A little selfish at times.
Positioning: Shown a tendency to drift out to the right to receive the ball and run infield towards goal. Limited success when he backs into defenders with his back to goal.
Crossing: Often took set-pieces at youth level and strikes the ball well enough to suggest that he is capable of providing good deliveries into the area if tasked with doing so.
Finishing: Strikes the ball cleanly and accurately off of his favoured left foot and is capable of finding the target from outside the area as well as in. Shows good composure in front of goal and is willing to wait for the goalkeeper to make the first move. Half of the eight shots he has taken so far this season have been on target, with three of those finding the back of the net.
What The Experts Say
Schalke director of sport Horst Heldt: "Leroy is a very talented and versatile attacking player. He's a coveted talent who several clubs were interested in but there was never a question of him wanting to leave Schalke. He's inherited his father's footballing genes and we hope he'll follow in his footsteps."
Lovely goal by Sane. His star hasn't yet shone as bright as those of Draxler, Meyer & Goretzka, but he's class. Goal could be a real spark- Clark Whitney (@Mr_Bundesliga) March 10, 2015
Leroy Sane catching the eye for #S04 so far. Confident,strong, good left foot. Keeping an eye on him- Andrew Gibney (@Gibney_A) February 24, 2015
Sané is one of a myriad of talented young players currently in the Schalke first team squad. Roberto Di Matteo has not been shy in leaning on the club's academy in times of need and the result is that players like Sané have been given opportunities to impress. Two superb goals have seen him gain worldwide notoriety, but the 19-year-old is still very raw and it would be unfair to expect too much of him.
Schalke have a big match in the race for fourth this coming weekend, when they will host Bayer Leverkusen at the Veltins Arena. Three points would see them move level with the current occupants of the final Champions League qualifying position. After two goals that have not produced positive outcomes for his side, Sané will hope for the chance to make a match-winning contribution against his former club on Saturday.
Nick Dorrington is a freelance football writer. Twitter: @chewingthecoca.