Leroy Sané primed for leadership role a year on from World Cup heartache | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 19.03.2019
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Leroy Sané primed for leadership role a year on from World Cup heartache

Joachim Löw's decision to axe the Manchester City winger was the first in a series of blunders for the German national team in 2018. One year on, the 23-year old has emerged as the face of a new era.

What a difference a year makes. Not 12 months after being axed from Germany’s squad on the eve of a World Cup, Leroy Sané has developed into a leading figure in the team.

"Leroy showed us in the Nations League games that he’s made a big step up," claimed Germany coach Joachim Löw ahead of Tuesday’s friendly clash with Serbia in Mainz. "He’s scored his first goals for us and done a good job. He can become an extremely important figure in the national team."

Hindsight has seldom been so severe as in the case of Löw’s decision to drop Sané last June. We all know what happened in Russia and, while it might be pushing it to blame such an omnishambles on the decision to leave a 22-year-old behind, it isn’t hard to imagine an alternate reality in which Sané was picked, Germany played far better and Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels were all still a part of Löw’s plans today.

Lack of leaders

But, here we are. That experienced quartet has been swept aside, leaving the side with a dearth of genuine leaders. Sané is unfazed by the suggestion that he might emerge as one.

"I don’t have any problems with that," he said, sitting alongside his national coach in Mainz. "I'm comfortable taking on that role. I just want to show what I can do on the pitch."

What Sané can do on a football pitch has never been in question. He was the reigning Premier League Young Player of the Year heading into Russia. As part of Pep Guardiola’s runaway league champions, the former Schalke man played a starring role, hitting ten goals and setting up 15 in 32 games. Question marks surrounding his attitude, however, are what ultimately cost him his seat on the plane, according to Germany midfielder Toni Kroos.

"Sometimes you have the feeling with Leroy’s body language that it is all the same whether we win or lose," said Kroos last September. "He has to improve his body language. Maybe the coach looked at his performances and wasn't happy."

Incidentally, Kroos was among the main culprits of last summer’s disastrous tournament and has carried that miserable form into this season. Earlier this month, the former Real Madrid boss Bernd Schuster labelled Kroos a "diesel tractor" and "a shadow of the player he once was."

Upsetting Leroy Sané never ends well for anyone, it seems.

 Premier League Manchester City v Liverpool (picture-alliance/empics/M. Rickett)

Leroy Sane is enjoying another stellar season at Manchester City

Age is just a number

With body language seemingly no longer an issue, members of Löw's current squad have been quick to praise the youngster’s attitude.

"Leadership has nothing to do with age," said Lukas Klostermann, one of three players to receive their first call-up to the national team this week, alongside Niklas Stark and Max Eggestein. "When I look at Leroy, I see someone who has done a lot right. You can definitely learn from that."

An easy option would have been to sulk following last summer’s announcement —as others did at the time — but the maturity he showed was telling and there’s no sign of resentment towards his coach a year on.

"I like the system we play under Jogi," Sané said. "It can take time to get used to a new style but players of our quality shouldn’t have a problem with that."

Sané, Marco Reus and Timo Werner are expected to represent the attacking component of Löw's system when the qualifying campaign for Euro 2020 resumes. The friendly against Serbia on Wednesday should provide the perfect dress rehearsal ahead of Germany's crucial Group C clash against the Netherlands on Sunday.

Showdowns between the two nations are always a fiery affair and Löw will need his players to rise to the occasion. His hopes, as well as those of a nation still scarred by last summer's implosion, rest largely on the shoulders of Leroy Sané.

What a difference a year makes.

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