Is Schalke’s Leroy Sané worthy of the hype?

Leroy Sané has made quite the climb in his young professional career since making his debut for FC Schalke 04’s first team in a Bundesliga match against VfB Stuttgart in April 2014 at the age of 18. On that day he may not have shown much in the way of looking like the club’s next big talent but two years on now, he most certainly is considered one of Germany’s biggest future stars in the making.

The main question for most part, though, has been, is he worth all the hype and attention that he’s been getting this year?

The answer may not be as straight-forward as a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, but the truth may lie somewhere in between. To an extent, Sané does deserve the praise that he’s been getting as he’s put up some impressive displays over the last year or so for Schalke and has deservedly cemented a starting berth in the team. But like every young player, he’s still got habits of inconsistency and rawness in his game that needs to be nurtured well with time and gained experience.

Sané has all the tools to become a top player some day, though. His dribbling skills, tricks, and flair make him a rare talent that has the potential to unlock tight games with his abilities, which he indeed has done on several occasions for Schalke this and last season. He has a maturity and air of confidence about him that have allowed him to progress as much as he has done in so little time, but may still have much more to offer in the right environment under the proper guidance.

Despite some time spent on the bench recently after some sloppy play, Sané’s stock continues to grow, and a possible move from Gelsenkirchen this summer is a possibility. In fact, if the Royal Blues miss out on Champions League football for a second consecutive season, it may well be a near certainty that he’ll leave.

One thing is for sure, he won’t be short of interest if he does to decide to go at the end of the current season. There is a rumor that Schalke, and in particular Horst Heldt, have continuously denied that Sané has a €37M release clause in his contract that could be activated this summer. Whether it’s true or not remains unconfirmed, but it’s gotten the likes of Manchester City, Barcelona, and Real Madrid to monitor his situation closely over the last few months in their hopes of attaining his services for the 2016/17 season.

His departure would be a big blow for Schalke, but it’s hard to say that it’s not one that they could not have foreseen coming. It’s happened before with a number of their young prodigies like Mesut Özil, Julian Draxler, and Lewis Holtby, who all left Veltins Arena early on in their careers to make their names elsewhere. It may well happen with someone like Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka from the current squad as well. Even though Schalke have built up an impressive resume for developing quality young players over the years, it’s also true that a lot of them didn’t realize their potential until they left the club and continued their development elsewhere with Schalke becoming more of an inconsistent, mismanaged club with each passing year.  The hiring of Christian Heidel, longtime-Mainz Sporting Director, will hopefully bring positive change in Gelsenkirchen. Heidel, whose hiring to replace current Royal Blues’ Sporting Director Horst Heldt was announced in February, will take over his new duties at Schalke at the end of the current season after receiving much acclaim for the quality of work he’d done at Mainz.

If Sané turns out to be the latest name to follow this recent pattern, it’s likely that his next move will more likely be abroad in England or Spain rather than to another German club unlike Özil or Draxler given his potentially hefty price tag. Moving to Real Madrid or Barcelona now could be harmful for his career as he likely wouldn’t get much playing time ahead of the likes of Messi, Neymar, Bale, and Ronaldo while it’s always a risk going to one of the money-rich English clubs where things can go to bust quickly if he fails to make an immediate impact.

As a result, staying at Schalke may be Sané’s most sensible option, especially with the regime change in management, although there’s definitely question marks as to how much more he can grow and achieve without a change of environment.  One way or another, it looks like Sané will have to make a major decision this summer, as will his suitors if they plan on investing the big bucks on this emerging young German star.

(This season, Sané has appeared in all but one of Schalke’s Bundesliga matches, starting 16.  He has scored five goals on 47 shots, while providing five assists and passing at nearly an 80% success rate. On the most recent WhoScored?com rankings, the midfielder is ranked 86th on a list of the top 257 Bundesliga players, just behind teammate Ralf Fahrmann and just ahead of Wolfsburg’s Daniel Caligiuri).

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Edin Halilovic

Edin is a Bosnian currently residing in the United States whose interest in the Bundesliga and German football in general has been increasing heavily in recent years. Follow him @edinh_96