Leroy Sané’s welcoming demeanour suggests a young footballer enjoying his stellar rise at Manchester City. There is an intelligence in his eyes and a willingness to discuss anything – including Alexis Sánchez’s possible arrival this month – as he relaxes in a chair at the club’s training complex.
Sánchez’s regular berth is on the left of attack, the area from which Sané terrorises defences. Yet there is no concern should the Arsenal forward, the subject of a £20m bid, join City during the transfer window and threaten Sané’s place in the starting XI.
“No, it doesn’t worry me personally,” the German says. “He’s a very good player. If he comes to us – I don’t know it will happen – he can help us. No player would say: ‘Oh I hope he doesn’t come.’ Every one of us is playing really well right now and everyone has confidence. But there are so many games – so everyone is going to get games.
“If you don’t get challenged, then you can’t find out how good you are. Even if he is better, you can look up to him, learn and try to improve with him. That makes you a better player. Even if someone like that comes in and is in front of you – if he plays more – the target is to get in front of him in the first XI. So it makes you work harder.”
City are at Liverpool on Sunday and Jürgen Klopp’s side know how good Sané can be. In September’s reverse fixture he produced one of his finest displays since joining from Schalke for £37m in the summer of 2016.
After 57 minutes he replaced Gabriel Jesus. City were 3-0 ahead, Sadio Mané had been sent off for the visitors, and Sané was ruthless in killing off Liverpool, scoring twice to complete a 5-0 win. He says: “I try, like always, to help the team, and to score two goals was very good for the team and for me too.”
City’s title challenge is a near-procession 22 matches in. Pep Guardiola’s team hold a 15-point lead over Manchester United and are a further three better off than Liverpool. Yet Sané knows the trip to Anfield will be a battle.
“They have a very good team, good strikers,” he says. “[Roberto] Firmino, [Mo] Salah, Mané – quick players. They will look for mistakes from us and try to play counterattacks. That’s why it’s a tough game. It was an equal game at the start of the season because they also had chances to score the first goal.