After months of failed contract negotiations, Leroy Sané finally looks destined for the Manchester City exit door in one of football’s worst-kept secrets.
Despite the financial implications of the coronavirus crisis for clubs across the continent and City’s potential impending European ban, it would still come as a shock if they failed to replace the 2017/18 PFA Young Player of the Year.
Throw in the fact long-term talisman David Silva is also set to depart, the next Jadon Sancho or Phil Foden has yet to emerge from their academy and Liverpool wrapping up the title in record-breaking style, Pep Guardiola’s men risk falling even further behind their Premier League rivals if a new star isn’t brought in to light up the Etihad.
We take a look at five players who could potentially fill the void left by Sané…
The 22-year-old Bayer Leverkusen star has been tracked by the Citizens' hierarchy for a number of years, according to the Daily Mail. With Sané all but gone, now could be the time to move for their much-admired man.
Bailey has been one of the Bundesliga’s standout performers since his move from Genk in January 2017. His brace in a narrow away victory at Bayern Munich in November 2019 cemented his status on the wanted list for most of Europe’s elite clubs.
The Jamaican wideman is renowned for his pace, trickery and goal threat. After averaging 0.26 assists per 90 minutes in 2019/20, 0.44 goals and 0.35 Big Chances scored, it's easy to see why.
Replacing the 16 goals and 18 assists Sané notched in a stop-start 2018/19 campaign will be extremely difficult. But Bailey’s stats suggest in a superior side which dominates possession and creates chances at will, he could be up to the task.
What may please Guardiola most is Bailey’s ball recovery figures. The diminutive winger regains possession for his side 5.35 times per 90, a key skill in City's playing style and an extremely attractive quality in today’s hyper-pressing era.
Real Sociedad have enjoyed a successful season. Sitting in seventh, just six points behind Sevilla in fourth, they are primed for a UEFA Champions League push. A mix of experience and youth has been key to their progress and 23-year-old Oyarzabal has been at the heart of things.
Eleven goals and seven assists in all competitions for the Basque club has drawn admirers from far and wide; the Spaniard has been a constant menace to LaLiga defenders since his debut in 2015.
With 0.26 left footed expected goals per 90, Oyarzabal would arguably provide the most balance when Sané leaves. The German was almost exclusively deployed on the left-hand-side of Manchester City‘s attack and scores the vast majority of his goals with his left foot. Just like Oyarzabal.
With 0.22 open-play assists, 6.33 duels won and 0.82 completed layoff passes there is a lot to be admired about Oyarzabal whose height and build also bear a striking resemblance to his potential predecessor.
The man charged with replacing Neymar – along with Philippe Coutinho – has only managed 35 league starts in three years. Injuries have ravaged the Frenchman’s time at the Camp Nou and he’s yet to make an appearance since football’s restart as he continues his recovery from the latest hamstring problem.
While the World Cup winner’s injury issues may put any possible suitors off, his dramatically reduced asking price and age (23) mean he’s a risk worth taking. Marca claim Barça are willing to accept as little as £55million this summer in order to get rid of Dembélé.
With 2.01 chances created, 3.52 take-ons completed and 4.78 final third entries per 90, it is obvious where the former Dortmund man’s strengths lie. His ability to beat his marker and move the attack into the danger zone with apparent ease is a skill possessed by very few. Sané is also one of those. That is why Dembélé could be a perfect fit.
Son of former Barcelona great Patrick Kluivert, 21-year-old Justin is already beginning to forge a reputation of his own.
Like his father, he started his career at Dutch giants Ajax before moving to Roma in the summer of 2018. Since switching to the Italian capital, the Netherlands international has only managed five goals and eight assists in 47 Serie A appearances.
Despite these relatively modest numbers, Kluivert’s overall performances have still won over the Giallorossi fans.
Kluivert has recently been linked with a transfer to Arsenal in a deal that would see Henrikh Mkhitaryan move in the opposite direction. The Gunners are reportedly remaining as frugal as ever in the transfer market, attempting to haggle over their player’s valuation by just £1.8million. But City would be far less inclined to let such issues stand in their way. Even in the COVID-19 era.
The Roma forward recorded 0.33 fast breaks, lost possession just 10.5 times and has a passing accuracy of 83.41 per cent. All three attributes are crucial to a Guardiola player and the Dutchman has them in abundance.
Although Torres plays the majority of his football on the right flank, Guardiola wouldn't be put off. The Catalan recently said Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Foden could play on the left-wing. Guardiola's mantra that ‘if you’re good enough you can play anywhere’ supports the notion further.
It would come as little surprise to see City make a move for the highly regarded 20-year-old.
Valencia have often provided world-class talent for their more affluent competitors – either domestically or overseas. Torres could be the latest Mestalla-made superstar to enjoy his best years elsewhere.
Torres has only lost possession an average of 1.01 times per 90 this season. With City boasting some of the highest possession stats in Europe, the Spanish attacker’s retention skills could make him an appealing option for Guardiola.
The Valencia winger also made 29.67 per cent of his passes towards the opposition goal and has created 0.38 Big Chances per 90 during 2019/20. With his forward-thinking nature and ability to pick out a team-mate clear, Torres’ current tally of four goals and four assists in LaLiga would surely rocket if a move to the Premier League materialised.
With only one year remaining on his contract, Torres could be a cheap, relatively risk-free solution to City’s Sané conundrum.