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BFW Roundtable: Was signing Leroy Sane a mistake for Bayern Munich?

One year later, not everyone thinks signing Leroy Sane was the right decision.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Over the course of about 18 months, Bayern Munich sporting director Hasan “Brazzo” Salihamidzic embarked on a journey to land prized winger Leroy Sane from Manchester City.

After (literally) hundreds of stories and rumors, the Bavarians finally got their man and many people thought Sane was on his way to being the next generation’s Arjen Robben.

After one season, however, things did not worked out exactly as planned. Sane did have 10 goals and 12 assists in 44 games across all competitions — and he did show that he was more than capable of consistently tracking back defensively (albeit after some prodding), but there were a lot of valleys mixed in with a few peaks. And sure, Sane was in his first year after ACL surgery — a buffer year for 99% of athletes.

There is, however, some concern about Sane both on the pitch — and off of it. Sane’s deal has reportedly upset many on the roster, particularly Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry. The deal also has upset the natural balance of Bayern Munich’s payroll — which is more based on a “prove it” first guideline.

So...with a rich deal and an average (at best) season, Sane has some fans feeling like the whole process of recruiting, signing, and performing was more trouble than it has been worth. We asked our writers what they think — and if they would go through the entire journey all over again.


Samrin

Yes, yes, yes, signing Sané was a mistake. Yet, I understand it. Bayern, for nearly a decade, relied on heavy wing play to win trophies. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben were extraordinary for the club, rarely taking the pitch together due to injuries but doing enough damage regardless. Since both left the club, Bayern relied on Robert Lewandowski for the goals but wasn’t winning the big one, the UEFA Champions League. And hence, they turned to someone they thought could be worthy of wearing Robben’s 10, Sané.

The problem is Sané was coming back from a long layoff; Bayern also won everything without him. By the time Bayern realized this, he had been signed. He is German, which is always an important factor for a club like Bayern; the price they paid Manchester City was lower than it would have been had COVID-19 not been a factor and Brazzo seems to have wanted this signing.

But it has caused one headache after another. First, there were issues with Hansi Flick who would have rather had Kai Havertz or Timo Werner. Secondly, there are numerous salary issues arising from the fact that Sané is paid so handsomely. Other players who are far more valuable to the squad and frankly, form the spine, like Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka are demanding more money. The “we don’t have money” excuse doesn’t work when Bayern manages to pay Sané so well.

Sané himself is not to blame for how much he earns. All he can do is try his best. He put his head down and learned to defend last season. He produced pretty good numbers for a first season, especially a season like no other due to Covid, and that too, after having come back from an injury. Depth at Bayern isn’t quite like depth at Manchester City and players end up playing a lot of games.

If Sané is magical this season, if his contributions are valuable enough to somewhat justify the salary, perhaps his signing will not turn out to be a mistake. For now though, with all the friction it is causing and with the caliber of players Bayern potentially stands to lose, the signing of Sané might have just landed Bayern in really hot water.


John Dillon

The €20 million salary that Bayern Munich agreed to pay Leroy Sané off of an ACL injury in 2020 (in addition to a relatively fair €45m transfer fee) might become one of the biggest self-inflicted wounds in club history. For starters, he isn’t worth near that amount—more than, say, Thomas Müller and much more than his more valuable teammate Kingsley Coman.

Practically all the big tabloids (and perhaps even most fans) expected Sané to push Coman out of the lineup. If Sané played up to his salary, he undoubtedly would. The reality has been quite different. Since Serge Gnabry’s own poor form made it possible for Hansi Flick to play both Sané and Coman together last season, their raw contribution in goals was very similar: 8 goals, 15 assists for Coman, and 10 goals, 12 assists for Sané. That’s a steep price for underwhelming production.

Now, unsurprisingly, Coman has hired super agent Pini Zahavi to demand a salary roughly equal to Sané’s. Does he deserve it? Well, he indeed scored the game winner in the 2019/2020 Champions League final and has proven his value over the years. But no, Bayern probably will not and realistically cannot afford to pay him such high wages. Instead, it seems to me that Coman might really depart for “greener” pastures (to make an American pun—Euro notes are actually many colors) on a free transfer.

Unless Sané miraculously plays even better than he ever did at Manchester City (and I do not think he ever will), his contract will be the benchmark for all Bayern players who want more money and can point to more valuable, more consistent performances to justify their demands. I could see an ongoing exodus of departures in the mid-term, some potentially on free transfers (like already Thiago Alcantara, David Alaba), because Bayern will not go into debt to meet those exorbitant demands. Thanks, Leroy.


Phillip Quinn

I think Leroy Sané is an excellent signing, and quite frankly, Bayern are lucky to have him.

The Sané stuff is way overblown to be completely honest with you. I feel like this exact same conversation happened during the first year that Lucas Hernández joined Bayern. "The players are all upset that he's making more than them."

Welcome to 2021. The transfer market is more global than ever, and if you want established star players, you're going to have to pay for them. And, it's going to cost you.

One if the reasons that Bayern have been pushing the youth teams so hard in recent years is not only "to find the next Thomas Müller or David Alaba", but it's to develop anywhere from one to four kids who can contribute solid minutes to the first team. Remember when Bayern were able to throw Diego Contento, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, and Gianluca Gaudino onto the field, and it didn't feel like there was a big drop off? They were cheap, young youth players instead of expensive, poor performers like Bouna Sarr, Douglas Costa, or Medhi Benatia.

Yes, Bayern have always been and will always be a rather frugal club compared to the English, Spanish, and (sometimes) Italian giants. COVID has hit Bayern harder than the rest, because there rely more in commercial game-day revenue v.s TV money like the non-German clubs. Not every player is going to get paid a ton of money, and that's just the reality of the situation

Sané managed 10 goals in all competitions after coming back from ACL surgery. It was good enough to be the team's fourth leading scorer in all competitions, and the goals were more consistently spread out than say 11 goal scorer Serge Gnabry who saw 5 of those goals come in two games against Schalke and Köln.

Brace yourselves. The same complaints are going to happen in a year or two when Bayern have to spend an arm and a leg on a world class replacement for Robert Lewandowski and, if Alexander Nübel doesn't work out for whatever reason, Manuel Neuer.


JTobolt

In short, no. It was always going to prove to be a high risk, high reward signing especially given his ACL injury. Add in that Bayern got him for far less than initially, it still is a win. Problem was, he just didn't mesh well with Hansi Flick. Through a combination of defensive woes and offensive hesitancy, it took a long while for Sané to find any resemblance of form.

That being said, what is the problem is his wage structure. I echo the concerns of John and Phillip with how Sané’s wage has quite frankly blown up Bayern’s wage structure. As John pointed out, Kingsley Coman has seen what Sané is making and is a pretty similar player so here we go, €20 million becomes the benchmark. Now while we can make justifications for Goreztka and Kimmich to be on the “world class” wage list with the likes of Lewandowski and Neuer, the remainder of the squad is not there.

Add into the globalization of world soccer which has seen wages skyrocket (I’m looking at you, Prem League) and Bayern taking a harder COVID-19 financial hit and we have a situation in which we might loose more players than we would like. The development of our youth system should now be the primary focus as we will no longer be able to make sneaky moves like we did with Kimmich, Thiago and Goretzka with as much frequency as we would like. I mean, look at what players are going for right now. I’d rather Bayern do that than turn into FC Barcelona or Real Madrid who are dealing with massive cap issues.

So ultimately, no, Leroy Sané was not a mistake. He is simply a sign that world football is passing how Bayern have been able to operate during our “Golden Era” and is a sign of the changing reality of world football.


RLD

Way too soon to say. In light of the wider market the price we paid for him was not unusually high, either by way of transfer fee or wages. His numbers in his first year were okay, especially considering he was new to the squad and coming off a serious knee injury. He does not yet seem to have developed a strong on-field connection with his teammates yet, but that takes time, and it looks worse that it is because we are spoiled by Mullerdowski’s telepathy, and how well Kimmich and Goretzka work as a team. On the good side it looks like his defensive work rate has gone up substantially during his time at Bayern and all credit for that has to go to Hansi Flick. Nagelsmann has done wonderful things over the last few years organizing defences and improving players in both aspects of the game, so we can expect more improvement in both sides of Sané’s play.

On the “wage scale” issue, that appears to me to be way overblown by the media. While it can be used as a negotiating tool it is a mighty small one. An agent can go on at length about how his player is worth more than player X on the same squad and deserves a bigger wage package, but unless some other team is willing to put up that money, it is moral persuasion only, which doesn't go far in professional sports. I expect Kimmich and Goretzka to both get big raises on their own merits, and I don’t think their demands would be a nickel less if Sané had not come to the team. When it comes to players, Bayern is not competing with itself, rather it is competing with other teams.

Like Hernandez this is a big year for Sané. We will know a lot more about how good an investment they were this time next year. In both cases there are a lot more reasons to be optimistic that pessimistic.