Liverpool could renew their interest in Schalke 04 winger Leroy Sane this January, with a big-money bid reportedly being prepared.
After being linked with a move for Schalke 04 winger Leroy Sane during Brendan Rodgers’ reign, could the 19-year-old be a target for new manager Jurgen Klopp?
Liverpool were said to have made an £11 million offer for the German in the summer, with the Mirror citing popular German publication Bild.
Though Rodgers has now departed, Sane could remain as a committee target, with Bundesliga expert Jan Aage Fjortoft speculating as to whether he could be Klopp’s first signing at the club.
As Julian Draxler’s £25 million move to VfL Wolfsburg this summer proves, every Schalke player has his price.
So who is Leroy Sane, and where would he fit in at Liverpool?
Sane has been on the fringes of the Schalke first team for the past 12 months.
Making his debut for the Gelsenkirchen side in 2013/14, Sane burst into the first-team persuasion after an impressive substitutes’ appearance in the Champions League.
Replacing Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting just before the half-hour mark, Sane was given his first taste of Europe’s elite with Roberto Di Matteo’s side holding Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw—28 minutes later, he found himself on the scoresheet.
Schalke eventually defeated Madrid 4-3, in one of the surprises of last season’s competition.
Alongside Draxler and Max Meyer, Sane is the joint-youngest player to score for Schalke in Champions League history, and like his compatriots, the Essen-born winger is primed for a bright future in European football.
Sane finished 2014/15 having made 13 appearances in the Bundesliga, scoring three goals.
Playing a more frequent role in new manager Andre Breitenreiter’s first team this season, however, Sane has caught the eye with three goals in three consecutive Bundesliga appearances—in wins over VfB Stuttgart, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hamburger SV.
Breitenreiter will be hoping for more this season, from a player widely considered one of the brightest young attacking prospects in Germany.
Playing Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
Able to play in a variety of attacking positions—on either wing, behind the striker and as an auxiliary striker—Sane was described by Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt on signing a new deal with the club as “a very talented and versatile attacking player.”
Alongside Draxler, Meyer, Leon Goretzka and his fellow Schalke youngsters, Sane was clearly taught the importance of tactical intelligence and discipline from an early age.
This has made him one of many young German stars to possess a maturity and surprising level of composure on the field.
Sane pairs this with incredible pace, dribbling skill and confidence in possession, making him a devastating prospect in the final third.
In his limited appearances for Schalke so far this season, Sane has averaged 5.8 successful dribbles per 90 minutes, and though this output would likely diminish over a longer stretch of game time—Sane has played just 370 Bundesliga minutes so far in 2015/16—this is a remarkable feat, and one that highlights his attacking talent.
Of players to feature regularly for Liverpool this season, Roberto Firmino is Rodgers’ most successful dribbler, with an average of 4.1 per 90 minutes.
This ability to coast past players with pace saw Sane score an incredible solo goal in April’s 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg.
“Before my goal, I headed the ball forward and saw that I had space,” the winger recalled after the game.
“Then I just kept running and had a bit of luck that I kept control of the ball.”
It is this simplicity that hallmarks Sane’s approach to football, with the young German making the most difficult of finishes look easy—as with his left-footed curler beyond Madrid’s Iker Casillas in the Champions League.
Also comfortable creating chances for his team-mates, with an average of 1.2 key passes per 90 Bundesliga minutes this season—more than Philippe Coutinho (1.1)—Sane has drawn comparisons with former Reds forward, Raheem Sterling.
It could be that Sterling’s £49 million move to Manchester City this summer has created an opening for Sane at Anfield.
Where Sane Would Fit in at Liverpool
Liverpool’s rumoured interest in Sane is understandable, given the lack of orthodox wide options within Klopp’s squad following the sale of Sterling.
When Rodgers attempted to utilise a 4-3-3 formation this season, for example, Liverpool lacked the balance that a pair of wingers provides—with Jordon Ibe, at present, the only genuine option at the club this season.
Signing Sane would provide Klopp with the option of stretching teams with added pace and direct running—ideal for his favoured 4-2-3-1.
If paired with Ibe, for example, Sane would also provide variety from the opposite flank, with his ability to cut inside to influence attacking play complementing Ibe’s byline-hugging approach.
That he is capable of performing in a number of attacking positions would see him slot in well alongside the likes of Danny Ings and Daniel Sturridge in a fluid forward line.
In many ways, therefore, Sane would fill the void Sterling left on Merseyside—though it must be stressed that the Schalke man is behind his English counterpart in terms of development.
What this would mean for Lazar Markovic, however, is unclear.
The Serbian winger, who joined Fenerbahce on a season-long loan this summer, found himself in a precarious position under Rodgers at Merseyside.
However, his first-team prospects could improve under Klopp in the future.
Already impressing in the Super Lig, showcasing his phenomenal pace and dribbling ability, Markovic deserves a regular role within this Reds outfit.
Signing Sane would only add to the future options in these wide areas for the Klopp, alongside Markovic and Ibe, and each would lend themselves perfectly to the German’s fast-paced counter-attacking style of play.
If this interest is genuine, Liverpool supporters should relish the prospect of Sane’s arrival—as the 19-year-old is an extremely talented young player.