Sané’s conflict: “That was painful too.”
This shot went straight to the heart: Manchester City’s Leroy Sané, with his fantastic free-kick in the final stages of a thrilling game, has left his ex-club Schalke in the dark on Wednesday evening about their prospects for progress in the Champions League. But he didn’t want to cheer about it.
When Leroy Sané visits Schalke, you can see that a man is coming back to his homeland. This was already the case last autumn, when the attacker from Manchester City made a guest appearance with the DFB team in Gelsenkirchen. It was the same again when he and his club were challenged to Schalke in the first leg of the Champions League round of sixteen. Shake hands, greet old acquaintances in the distance, answer messages: he did all this as if he were asleep, so safely and confidently he manoeuvred himself – with his smartphone in his hand – through the catacombs of the arena.
And she was also noticeable on the square, this familiarity and security, which a return to the place of his youth often brings with it. When his coach Pep Guardiola finally let him off the leash after 78 minutes and Sané walked on the pitch to the applause of many Schalker fans, the 23-year-old didn’t need any starting time. He was right in the game and gave energy and speed to his team, which had previously been poor in esprit.
“I’ve been practicing these free kicks since I arrived in Manchester.”
Seven minutes later, he grabbed the ball as a matter of course when his team was awarded a free-kick after a Schalker foul a few yards from the penalty area. Seven steps and a perfect shot later there was silence in the sold-out arena – the ball floundered in the net. The surprising Schalker lead, shot out by two penalty goals from Nabil Bentaleb to Sergio Aguero’s early 0-1 (18th), was gone. And the shock was deep. Only five minutes later, the hosts gave up the game completely and, after a weakly defended long tee shot by City-Keeper Ederson, they conceded the 2-3 win by Raheem Sterling. The chances of progress shrank to a minimum.
“Of course I was happy for my team. But scoring such a goal against my old love was also painful,” Sané said after the match. “I’ve been practicing these free kicks since I arrived in Manchester. It has already paid off against Hoffenheim, now it’s working again.” Nevertheless, he did without a big cheer – out of respect for his ex-club. Instead, he later praised his former team-mates for their courageous performance: “They made it very strong and showed a good game overall. That made it very difficult for us.” The special atmosphere in the arena played its part: “I know how the fans whip Schalke forward. How they did it in the first half gave me goose bumps,” Sané admitted.
A final conclusion in my home country
Only a short time after the game he could enjoy the return home with his family and friends. A side trip to the VIP area, some interviews in the mixed zone, then he had to go to the bus. But there was still time for a conclusion: “It was very emotional for me to come to my old home”, said Sané. “Where it all began.” And where they still worship him today – despite his shot on Wednesday, right into the heart of Schalker.