Just last month Gael Clichy said his Manchester City team-mate Leroy Sane reminded him of Gareth Bale.
High praise indeed for a 21-year-old who looked largely uncomfortable and unsettled in the character-defining confines of the Premier League until December. It took a first goal against Arsenal to confirm all the pre-season hype about the German as the best of his country’s next generation of footballers may not be just false hope.
Not just another example of a young player built up and then bulldozed when he failed to fulfil potential and justify a substantial transfer fee a la Anthony Martial.
Costing an initial £37 million (Dh170m) from Schalke last summer, Sane was immediately under scrutiny. It was grossly unfair to expect so much from a then 20-year-old so soon, but his rise has been rapid, a testament to his temperament and willingness to learn, adapt and improve.
That first strike on December 18 gave him the belief he needed and to show Pep Guardiola he could be a first-team starter, an integral member of this City side.
Another impressive, intelligent display in yesterday’s 2-2 draw at Arsenal showed how he could not only be the attacking future of the Etihad outfit, but also the world game.
With balance and bewitching ball control, he is in the mould of the magical modern-day wing wonders, those fleet-footed frontmen feared by every full-back.
It was clever how he came inside of Hector Bellerin to race onto Kevin De Bruyne’s wonderful instinctive pass and then showed composure as he rounded David Ospina to put City in front at the Emirates.
Leroy Sané's game by numbers vs. Arsenal:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 2, 2017
100% aerial duels won
4 take-ons completed
Constant threat. pic.twitter.com/kaypx4IhSf
Given Bellerin’s reputation as one of the best right-backs around, it was the kind of ability that marks out world beaters, that makes them such a threat every time they are on the ball and thrills supporters.
Yes, he’s a reminder of Bale, of Ryan Giggs, of Arjen Robben and, if he gets stronger physically, then Cristiano Ronaldo as well. But what about a look of Lionel Messi in him too? With great technique and shooting accuracy, just as the Argentine elevated to a higher level at Barcelona working with Guardiola, so too could Sane under his City boss.
He now has eight goals in the last 15 games, but they have come from just 13 shots on target and against teams such as the Gunners, Spurs and Monaco. The bigger the stage, the bigger the impact it seems.
Like John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, Guardiola should make Sane a development project and also look to get him more involved in his fluid system too.
He has no fear and all the attributes of being a mesmerising matchwinner, not just from the flanks either, and the German international should take note of an opposition rival in how not to see similar talent go to waste.
In scoring Arsenal’s first leveller, Theo Walcott claimed his 18th goal of the season – his best tally since 2013 – but he has always been considered a ‘nearly man’. Since being called up for England’s 2006 World Cup squad at the age of 17, he has never been influential or trusted enough for Arsenal and ignored by his country for recent games.
At 28, he has become a bit-part player when he could have been the main man.
Having proved he belongs at this level, Sane now has to go on and make sure he does not follow Walcott – and be a revelation without regrets.