Leroy Sané talks about overcoming injury, his improved performance this season, and why his teammate Lewandowski deserves the Ballon d’Or. The 25-year-old also explains why the game against Borussia Dortmund is so special, and the impact his coach Julian Nagelsmann has played in his recent progress.
It seems like you are having a lot of fun with football at the moment. Is this impression correct?
Of course. We have been playing really good, attractive football. We are winning and it’s also going well for me personally.
3 goals, 4 assists, many good games…praise in the press: Why do you think you are succeeding more this season than in your first season at FC Bayern?
I don’t really want to talk about it that much or make it an issue again. The Covid-19 pandemic and my injury in particular affected me. I knew it would take time for me to feel myself in my body and to know myself again. Now I am back to full strength and I have a really good rhythm, and I think that’s the biggest part.
And you changed your position. What part has coach Julian Nagelsmann played in this progress?
He just put me back on the left side, which is fine for me. I have played on the left side for many years, but the position is not really the main thing for me, to be honest. It is more about how I feel physically.
If we look at your duels, it is noticeable that you have become extremely stable. Offensively you can hardly be separated from the ball and defensively you are good at winning it back. Did you focus on that specifically?
I really learned how to use my body in the Premier League but, in general, I wasn’t really feeling that good physically last season. I felt sometimes that I was not ready, and I spent a lot of time last season on getting the confidence back because of my injury. Now everything is good and I feel much more confident, which is being reflected in the way I am playing.
What is Senegal like? Can you explain it?
It has been a long time since I last went back. It’s always hard to spend a lot of time there because of the short amount of holiday I get. But I am trying to return to the country again soon.
Schalke was the club that brought you onto the Bundesliga stage. Then the big move to Manchester City quickly followed. Since you were relatively young at the time, what changed in you and your game?
The rhythm of the games changed because you play more fixtures and you play very often. The quality is also important because I came into a team where the quality was really high. I first had to get used to the rhythm of this because the players were better and I wasn’t used to that. I learned a lot through that, such as playing quickly in your head, and I made a huge step forward in these things. If you don’t want to accept it or learn it, then you will never get used to it. I just wanted to try to get used to that as quickly as possible and you just carry it with you the whole time. You just try to play quick and simple in certain situations and you look for the better position of your teammate.
Things went well in Manchester at first and you were honored as the best young player in the Premier League. But later on, you tore your cruciate ligament. How difficult were those times for you and what gave you hope back then?
It was a knee injury and there was quite a long time that I couldn’t play for. Obviously, you have to be mentally strong, and you learn a lot about yourself too because you have more time to think about things and about your injury, too. You see your teammates and other players playing on the field and you obviously miss it. You just try to stay positive and look forward to the future. I talked to people who had this injury and who came back from it really well and that gave me hope. Everyone was just saying that if you keep improving and working hard on your knee and on your health, you’ll recover really well and the healing process is better overall. This is what gave me strength – having my family around me also helped me a lot. I had a bit of downtime and more time for my girlfriend and kids. I was able to spend time with them and this gave me strength and helped me mentally, too. I was able to just not think too much and pressure myself too much and I think these were the main reasons.
Now you are a big star at FC Bayern and a very important player in the squad. The first half of the season is entering the final phase and the Klassiker against Dortmund is coming up soon. Can you describe the Klassiker in three words?
It is fantastic. It’s a special game for the league and everyone knows Dortmund are always trying to catch up, but they can’t really do that. We look forward to it because it’s a special game – a fixture that we want to win, to cement our dominance and show everyone that we are the number one.
Can you describe the feeling during the preparation? With what thoughts do you sit in the dressing room or stand in the players’ tunnel?
I get this feeling when I start walking on the pitch right before the game. When the stadium is full, you also get the feeling from the fans and then you know it’s a special game. The feeling is sometimes a little bit more intense before these special games because everyone is looking forward to it and just wants to get on the pitch to finally play. You just try to pass the time so that you can be in the tunnel and walk onto the pitch.
In the last Klassiker, FC Bayern turned a two-goal deficit into a 4:2 victory. It was your precise assist to Robert Lewandowski that started the turnaround. Do you have to play even harder, more accurately and more precisely in these top matches?
Of course, because the bigger the opponent, the higher the quality. You have to be 100 percent focused because the smallest mistake can lead to a goal. Back then we maybe weren’t really ready at the beginning but, as we know, we are Bayern and we always come back and we never give up. We just kept going and played our game and we knew that if we got our chances, we would score two. After the two goals from Dortmund, everyone knows what happened then.
When der Klassiker is played, we will know who has won the Ballon d’Or. Your teammate Robert Lewandowski is a promising candidate. Why do you think he would be a deserving winner?
When you see what he has done in the last few years, that’s why he deserves it. He scored so many goals in almost every game and that’s an incredible achievement. Not many players can do that, or have done that, and that’s why I think he’s the best candidate and why he should also win the Ballon d’Or.
What does he have that other player don’t?
His work rate and his hunger to work hard and improve himself, and obviously when he is on the pitch, he has an unrivalled desire to deliver and score goals.
Back to you as a person. You stand out not only because of your strong performances on the pitch, but also because of your special taste in fashion. What does fashion give you, or what does it mean to you?
I like fashion because you can really express yourself, you can show who you are and what your taste is. It also gives me a good balance when I have time to rest, allowing me to do something other than football. I find all the things you can do with clothes really interesting.
What are your personal goals? What would you like to achieve in the near future in terms of sport?
I want to achieve as much as I can and win as many titles as I can both with the team, but also individually. When I finish my career, I want to be able to say that I gave my best and I want to look back and say that I had an excellent career. I hope to have inspired a lot of young kids who also want to work hard and devote themselves to being a good professional football player.
And what are your dreams?
I still want to win the Champions League definitely, but also the World Cup or the Euros with the national team. These three trophies are my biggest dreams in football.