The 22-year-old winger was one of the leading lights in Manchester City’s record-breaking, runaway Premier League title season and was voted PFA young player of the year by his fellow professionals – yet has not made the cut for Joachim Low’s 23-man party for Russia.
The son of a former professional player and a former Olympic gymnast, Sane’s pace, natural athleticism, technical skill, eye for goal and ability to set up chances for team-mates means he would walk into virtually every other international squad. He scored 14 goals and totalled 19 assists in all competitions as City won the title with a top flight record of 100 points and with five games to spare and added the Carabao Cup as well.
Many would argue Sane actually had a better and more consistent season than team-mate and wing-twin Raheem Sterling who is one of England’s big hopes for Russia. Low included Sane in his original 27-man squad and it seemed a formality he would make the final 23.
But despite playing in six of Germany’s last seven games – including 67 minutes of their weekend defeat to Austria – Low has preferred to pick the more physical Julian Brandt of Bayer Leverkusen and suggested Sane had not impressed in his recent international appearances. Low admitted it had been an agonising call, he hadn’t enjoyed making it but assured Sane he will play a big part in Germany’s future.
“Leroy is a huge talent and from September on he will be a big part of the team again,” he said at the end of Germany’s training camp in the Alps. “But in the last few matches he played for us he was not really present so maybe that is the reason why I didn’t pick him. “Leroy’s reaction was good. In the end it was a very tight decision between him and Julian Brandt. Both have good qualities, both are fast and have offensive skills. In the end it was close and it went in favour of Brandt.
“There are better days in the life of a national team coach, when you have to send home four amazing players who deserve to be at the World Cup. “It’s like being at the airport check-in counter en route to Moscow and you are not allowed to board the plane.” Sane has struggled to reproduce his club form on the international stage. In his 12 appearances – six of them starts – he has yet to score for Germany and has made only one “assists.”
But apart from team-mate Kevin De Bruyne, no player in Europe’s top five leagues had more assists than him. And his stats were far better than players like Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Julian Draxler and Brandts – who scored 12 goals and made seven for Leverkusen who finished fifth in the Bundesliga. The irony is that Low had included Sane in his Euro 2016 squad just before his £37m move from Schalke to City when he was full of potential but raw. He was also in Germany’s Confederations Cup winning squad last summer.
But he is a far better and more mature player and has come on in leaps and bounds after two years in England under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola. The City manager will no doubt be left with mixed emotions. He will be questioning Low’s sanity and sorry for Sane but he will be delighted that one of his best players will get a much-needed summer rest.
Sane’s City team-mate Kyle Walker reflected the shock at the Etihad by posting a picture of him blowing water out of his mouth with the caption: “When you find out that Leroy Sane is not going to the World Cup…..” Sane’s City team-mate Vincent Kompany enjoyed better fortune. He was named in Belgium’s squad despite being troubled by yet another injury.
Kompany suffered a groin injury during Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Portugal with manager Roberto Martinez admitting he would make a decision on the centre back’s fitness closer to their opening match against Panama on June 18. Martinez – whose side are in England’s group – said he can call up a replacement until 24 hours before the Panama game. “Vincent is a true leader – his leadership is essential for us,” he said. He also said dropping Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke was his “toughest decision”.
GERMAN squad: Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Kevin Trapp.
Defenders: Jerome Boateng, Matthias Ginter, Jonas Hector, Mats Hummels, Joshua Kimmich, Marvin Plattenhardt, Antonio Rudiger, Niklas Sule
Midfielders: Julian Brandt, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretska, Ilkay Gundogan, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Sebastian Rudy
Strikers: Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller, Marco Reus, Timo Werner