Much has happened in Leroy Sane’s career in the seven months since he fired the defining goal in last season’s Premier League and, sadly for the Manchester City winger, not all of it good.
Sane may have done his bit to clinch a domestic Treble for Pep Guardiola’s side, not least in the 72nd minute of a seismic clash at the Etihad on January 3. His strike drove a dagger through Liverpool’s heart and gave City a 2-1 win that proved the difference when the two teams finished one point apart in May.
But it came against a backdrop of discord between the 23-year-old and his manager that could lead to Sane’s exit this month if Bayern Munich are prepared to stump up the £135million City are demanding.
Manchester City’s future is more unclear than ever after his Community Shield cameo
The German has found life tough in recent months and was forced off injured on Sunday
Guardiola was unhappy with the player’s attitude in training last season, and we saw less of the jet-heeled German.
Sane is now reluctant to extend a contract that has two years left to run and Bayern have made plenty of noise about taking the former Schalke winger back to the Bundesliga – much to City’s annoyance – without putting any money where their mouth is.
The last thing anyone wanted to see, however, was Sane hobbling off the pitch at Wembley with an injury that ended his participation in Sunday’s Community Shield and City’s latest enthralling battle with Liverpool.
It remains to be seen just how serious the damage is to his right knee, and whether it could have any effect on Bayern’s willingness to make an offer before the end of the month.
But if this is the last we see of Sane in a City shirt, it would be a sad way for it all to end.
He tried to join in the celebrations after his team’s victory in a penalty shootout, but was clearly in discomfort with his right knee bandaged. Guardiola broke away from the rest of the group to give him a reassuring hug.
‘I was concerned about his injury – you believe I have a problem with him?’ said the City manager afterwards, detecting an undertone in the question.
Pep Guardiola (R) has had issues with Sane’s attitude at times and he could yet leave the club
Sane had already fired into the side-netting from a good opportunity when he went down under a challenge from Trent Alexander-Arnold midway inside the Liverpool half in the eighth minute.
It soon became clear that treatment was having little effect and Gabriel Jesus was ordered to warm up, no doubt wishing he had a little longer to prepare after only returning to training this week.
Sane was off the pitch but his replacement hadn’t made it on when City scored from the free kick awarded for Alexander-Arnold’s challenge on him, Raheem Sterling’s effort find its way through the legs of Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
For a long time, it looked like it would be enough to give City victory in a contest that rekindled the rivalry – closer to enmity these days – between the two clubs.
At one point in the first half, Guardiola was booked for remonstrating furiously with fourth official Stuart Attwell over Joe Gomez’s challenge on David Silva. City’s celebrations at the final whistle certainly showed this was more than a token victory.
Once again, there was very little to choose between them and Liverpool. Once again, the outcome was decided by the finest of margins.
In January, Sane scored with a low shot that fizzed in off the post and altered the course of the title race, but not before John Stones dramatically cleared off the line after Sadio Mane hit the woodwork for Liverpool.
Here, it was Kyle Walker’s turn to produce a goal-line clearance every bit as good when he hacked clear from under his own crossbar in injury-time after Mo Salah headed towards an empty goal.
Sane started the game but went down with an injury after catching Trent Alexander-Arnold
Salah also hit the foot of a post while Virgil van Dijk also saw a first-time effort strike the underside of the bar and bounce back onto the line before Joel Matip’s equaliser took the game to penalties.
City prevailed again – just – but Guardiola will be concerned at the number of chances Liverpool created in what has become the standout fixture in the English football calendar.
Defensively, the Premier League champions looked a little fragile in the absence of Aymeric Laporte. In attack, they didn’t create too much after the goal except when Sterling was sent clear with options left and right and somehow ran the ball straight into the hands of Alisson.
But let’s not forget they still won, and we’ve seen enough of this team to know what they’re made of. There are players to return and improvements to be made. City will set the standard again this season.
Will Sane be part of it? Who knows? But he limped away from Wembley on Sunday night, more uncertain than ever of what the future holds for him.
It remains unclear how serious the injury is but it could thwart a summer switch to Bayern