The long-drawn saga of Leroy Sane’s move away from Manchester is now gradually coming to an end. The German has made it clear he wants to leave the club. It’s now a matter of whether the club can recoup some of its investment on him or have him leave for free at the expiration of his contract next summer. Whether he ends up going to Bayern Munich or not, the big question is how will City replace him?
Although the Germany international has played very little football for the club in the last two seasons, he proved his value two seasons ago. Playing a pivotal role in Pep Guardiola’s first taste of silverware in English football, the former Schalke winger was named PFA Young Player of the Year for 2018. Much was expected of his career at the Etihad Stadium beyond then.
Unfortunately, things went south from then. He spent more time on the bench last term than was expected, leading to speculation that the manager no longer had confidence in him. Although he still made a significant contribution to City’s unprecedented success (remember his winning goal against Liverpool that effectively turned the tide in the title race?), he had lost his place as a regular starter in the team.
The cracks in the wall began to appear when he refused to sign a new deal despite getting improved terms from the club. But there was hope in some quarters he will put pen to paper at some point. Some felt he probably wanted more money. Time has flown by since, especially with the player sidelined for the better part of this season due to injury.
Last week, he finally made it clear to the manager and the club that he is leaving. That led to talk about his replacement although it has been suspected for the last year or so. Not to be taken by surprise, the City boss has prepared for this possibility all along. He has shown over time that he is ready to move on without Sane.
Asked how he planned to replace the forward given the situation at hand, Guardiola made it clear that whether he leaves this summer or the next, he will not be missed.
“First, Leroy is our player,” he stated in a recent interview.
“I don’t know if he is going to leave this summer or at end of his contract but we have enough good players up front.
“Gabriel (Jesus) can play on the left, Phil Foden can play on the left, we have Raheem (Sterling) there. We have big, talented players up front.
“Most of them are in good healthy conditions, like Phil, Riyad (Mahrez), Gabriel, Raheem, they can play quite regularly for a long period of time, they are so stable in terms of injury situations.”
A careful look at the squad shows the manager is right. City’s priority signing at this point definitely shouldn’t be a winger. The defence remains the team’s Achilles heel and the centre-back position, in particular, will require beefing up in the coming transfer window. Nicolas Otamendi is on his way out. John Stones has been unreliable. Eric Garcia is still learning the ropes. That leaves Aymeric Laporte as the main man at the back. The Frenchman needs a top-class partner while the others act as rotational players or back-ups.
Also, the manager should be concerned about the left-back position. A natural left-back will be needed to give Benjamin Mendy a run for his money.
A stable defence will be vital if the Blues are to give Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool a serious challenge to reclaim the title next term.