Super Bayern 2.0
A long-rumored and long-teased transfer has finally been made official. Leroy Sané, after three very solid years of lighting up the Premier League, with a fourth basically ended through injury, has returned to his native country to sign with Bayern Munich. Due to his contract winding down at Manchester City, Sané’s move to Bavaria was for a cut rate fee of about €50 million (£54.8 million). What does this move mean for Bayern? For City? For Sané? Let us take a look at everything related to this blockbuster transfer.
As you can tell by the subtitle of this piece, yes, this is a fantastic bit of business for Bayern Munich. Sure, they did not get him when they wanted, having initially enquired about this move last summer, but they finally got their man and for much cheaper than they initially thought they would have had to pay. Before his injury in the FA Community Shield, the discussed fee between the clubs was around €100 million, and Bayern have now got him for about half of that. Bayern are adding an incredible talent, a winger who is world class on his day, and a player that slots in perfectly into their team. Sané will play on the left for Bayern, as he did for City, taking the place that Kingsley Coman filled in the team. Since the departure of club legends Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, Bayern have looked for attacking players that are able to have the level of influence on a match that the famous “Robbery” pairing did. Serge Gnabry has really cemented himself on that right side, but the rotating fixtures of Coman, Ivan Perišić, and others on that left side has been a key missing link in the Bavarian attack. The Bayern front four of Sané, Thomas Müller, Gnabry, and Robert Lewandowski now becomes one of the best in European football, cementing Bayern’s place as a Champions League contender for next season (Sané is not eligible to feature for Bayern in the resumed Champions League next month). Bayern also made this move on the relative cheap, meaning that if they are able to sell some players, they can still sign players in other positions. A €50 million move puts a significantly lesser strain on the Bayern books than a €100 million move, and that added financial breathing room allows them to continue upgrading the team and move better should some formerly key players, such as David Alaba or Thiago Alcântara, leave the club. This is undoubtedly a winning move for Bayern, and one that will launch them into the levels of Europe’s elite teams once again. They were dominant in the early 2010s, contending for the Champions League nearly every season, and this move will seemingly bring them to near that same level.
For Man City, this move is unfortunate, especially for how little he went for, but it is not the end of the world. It was no secret that, for some reason, Sané had fallen out of favor with manager Pep Guardiola. The German was always immensely talented and was exceptional when he did play for City, but near the end of his time in Manchester, he found himself riding the bench more often than not. He was living life as an attacking super sub instead of being a regular starting player. Guardiola preferred a set up utilizing Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva as his wingers, and the arrival of Riyad Mahrez and emergence of Phil Foden demonstrated that there were several other players ahead of Sané in Pep’s mind. This likely motivated Sané’s desire to leave City, refusing to sign a new contract and outwardly pushing for the move to Bayern. Sané was not going to heavily feature for this City side, so it is in Pep’s best interest to allow an unsettled player to leave the club. This move opens up some financial flexibility to allow City to make the upgrades they need to challenge Liverpool for the title next season. City’s attack, even without Sané, is still among the best in the league and the continent, but their defense was exposed several times this season, especially after Aymeric Laporte was injured. City could use the extra money to bring in an upgrade a center back over John Stones or Nicolás Otamendi, or possibly an upgrade at left back over Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko. Obviously, City’s wealthy owners do not need the money, but with many more eyes on them following their FFP violations, they would be wise to abide by UEFA’s financial regulations. Bringing in money from a player sale is important in balancing the books and their ability to make a big name signing when the transfer window opens. Football-wise, this move opens the door a little bit wider for Phil Foden, who has shone in his chances with the first team since the league season resumed. Foden was always immensely talented when he emerged from the City Academy, with Guardiola calling him one of the best young talents he has ever seen, but he has lacked any chances in the ultra-talented City first team. Debates have raged over whether he should leave the Etihad for first team opportunities, and while that debate might still be valid, it is undoubted that Sané’s departure, along with the imminent departure of David Silva, has opened the door for the young Englishman to earn opportunities to feature with the first team. Foden could become a future superstar shining in the role in which Sané once played, and he did not cost City a penny. Yes, Sané is still a world-class footballer, and his departure is still unfortunate for City. They will also rue their inability to get more than €50 million for the talented winger, possibly having gotten more had he not gotten injured in the Community Shield, but his departure is ultimately not a massive loss for City or for Guardiola’s vision for the team.
So what does this all mean for Sané? Well, football-wise, he leaves a team where he possibly felt under-appreciated and like a bit-part player and goes to a team where he is the main guy, or among the two or three main guys. Sané will be a star player in Bavaria, playing every week and being among the biggest names in the team. He will be working with Hansi Flick, a man whom he worked with in the German National Team set up. Fit-wise, he is returning to his native country and to a league he is very familiar with. Adaptation to England never seemed to be an issue, but this return to familiar pastures may be even more beneficial for the player.
Is the fit in the team perfect? Well, sort of. Adding a world-class talent like Sané is clearly not going to make Bayern worse, and replacing Coman with Sané in that front four does make the Bavarians a much more imposing attacking team, but the one question I have is about the potential relationship between Sané and left back Alphonso Davies. Coman and Perišić, as right-footed left wingers, have the natural tendency to cut inside on their stronger foot, which allows Davies to overlap into the wide areas and cross the ball into the box. Davies also built a good understanding with the wingers, especially Coman, to know when to stay wide and overlap and when to cut inside or attack the channels on forward runs. Comparatively, Sané is a left-footed left winger, and while he is adept at moving wide and inside, his movement will lead to him wanting to end up on his preferred left foot. While this seems to be a minor detail, this can lead to a much different dynamic between Sané and Davies, and it is possible that the same wide overlapping space that was available for Davies this season will not be there for him next season. With Davies being billed as among the best attacking left backs in the world at the minute, it is in Bayern’s best interest to get the most out of his incredible technical and physical abilities. Sané and Davies will need to build a strong relationship and understanding on the pitch for Bayern to get the most out of the talent at their disposal. I do not doubt that Sané will be brilliant for Bayern, but this one seemingly small question could make the difference between Bayern becoming the best team in the world or missing out on another Champions League title.
Leroy Sané’s move to Bayern is a very big deal in European football. I have no doubts that it will elevate Bayern to another level as a team, and it will help City restructure their team for another title challenge. I have some questions about how Sané and Alphonso Davies will function in the same team, but if that minor issue is sorted out, the Bayern become an absolutely terrifying team. Sané will enjoy his time in Bavaria; he will be a success in Hansi Flick’s reformed Super Bayern.
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