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Toni Kroos torches Leroy Sané at press conference for German national team

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Toni Kroos was asked several pointed questions about Leroy Sané and painted a portrait of a gifted player who has to be coaxed to perform and seems not to care.

MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 04: Leroy Sane of Germany looks on during a team Germany training session at Bayern Muenchen Campus on September 4, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 04: Leroy Sane of Germany looks on during a team Germany training session at Bayern Muenchen Campus on September 4, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images

Leroy Sané has been a constant theme for the German National Team ever since head coach Joachim Löw surprisingly dropped the left winger from his final World Cup roster before Germany’s disastrous campaign. Sané had performed poorly in his appearances with the team, and comments by Mats Hummels immediately after his departure suggested — without naming names — that Sané’s attitude may have factored into Löw’s decision.

Now Sané has been called up to the national team yet again, and many wonder whether Löw may give the troubled star a chance to play, potentially even in the important Nations League match against reigning world champions France. But Sané has yet to start a match for Manchester City this season, and Pep Guardiola left him completely off the squad for City’s game against Newcastle on Saturday.

Asked whether the discontent with Sané in Manchester corresponded to problems before his dismissal from the national team’s training camp in South Tyrol, Kroos praised Sané’s abilities while making it clear that he did not believe Sané played at his full potential. Kroos said,

He is fundamentally a player who has everything to become absolutely world class, but who also, of course, seemingly again and again — let’s say — has to have it said to him that he should do that.

Kroos speculated that this need for encouragement (one might say) could be a reason for Sané’s benching in Manchster, but he stressed that he did not know for sure. Kroos concluded, however, by reiterating the point that Sané has immense skills that he does not necessarily use to help his team:

MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 05: Toni Kroos of Germany speaks to the media during the Germany Press Conference before the International Friendly football match between Germany and France at Allianz Arena on September 5, 2018 in Munich, Germany. Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

What’s clear, though, is that you have to find a way get him to deliver his top performance, because if he can do that . . . it’d be a massive boost, because it’d definitely give us more options for our game with the attributes that he has — of course, when he brings them onto the pitch.

A journalist later asked what Sané was lacking that would have made him a team player who might have gone to the World Cup. Kroos responded incredulously, “I think that Leroy is a team player. No one has claimed anything else.” He then painted another unflattering portrait, echoing a criticism frequently heard of Mesut Özil:

Of course he’s somebody who from his body language you have the impression, a bit, “OK, win or lose is not so bad,” that’s his body language. I don’t know whether it’s true.

Kroos emphasized that, “we don’t have another player like Leroy, with the qualities he has — the quickness with his left foot,” and also mentioned Sané “outstanding season last year with Manchester City.” Again, however, he returned to the idea that Sané has to be motivated to play hard:

And despite that you sometimes have the feeling, like now as you can see with Pep, let’s say, that he [Pep] maybe sees that too and he’s teasing him a bit if he doesn’t play or isn’t there [i.e. on the squad]. All that ultimately serves, I think, to get the best out of him. And when he shows that, he’d be an absolute weapon for us.

If will be very interesting to see whether head coach Löw plays Sané against France in their Nations League contest Thursday or, perhaps more likely, in the international friendly against Peru on Sunday.

The full video is available on Youtube. Kroos responds to questions about Sané at 56:14 and 101:45. ESPN also published some of his comments in English.