Leroy SanÃ© has been one of Manchester City’s undoubted hit of the season. The former winger of Schalke may not have been an instant sensation â€“ it took him some time to adapt to a new country, and the physical demands of the Premier League, but from the moment he scored his first goal in England against Arsenal in December he has never looked back. All of a sudden, it was possible to see what had impressed Pep Guardiola so much in the Bundesliga. Even the fee of Â£37m began to look less excessive. During the brief period when Gabriel Jesus was able to make the link with SanÃ© in the City of attack, the evidence was even more interesting: there was a player for the future, someone that you could build a team around.
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Arsenal are the opponents again at Wembley stadium on Sunday afternoon and SanÃ©, who has nine goals to his name, is against one of his best friends. It is in contact with Mesut Ã–zil on a weekly basis, after the european Championships last summer, the pair headed to America on vacation, and he attributed it to his Germany team-mate to help him make his way in international football so smooth.
â€œThe first time I’ve been called to Germany, it was Mesut who has decided to take care of me,â€ SanÃ© said. â€œHe told me if I ever had any kind of problem that he would try to help me and that is exactly what he has done. For sure, it helped me a lot. So now we call each other regularly, and sometimes, I met him in London as a friend.
â€œHe is a little older than me, but it can be just like a child sometimes, especially on vacation in California. We did the tourist attractions, enjoyed the time and did our best not to talk about football. But when I call now, I can discuss how my career. Sometimes, it is good to have older friends. They have a lot more experience.â€
The first night of SanÃ©’s international career proved to be a traumatic experience in a way that is not even Ã–zil the experience would have been able to predict. He made his debut for the first side of Germany in Paris in November 2015, the night the city was attacked and the teams, and ended up staying for the night in the stadium because it was considered too risky for the return trip to their hotel. â€œIt was a nightâ€, he recalls. â€œAt the beginning, I was very happy and very proud, it was my first game for my country. The events after the game has transformed into a very disturbing memory, even negative. It is entirely offset the sense to leave earlier.â€
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SanÃ© claims to have no knowledge of this, but there is a sense of Germany’s Joachim LÃ¶w has accelerated the player’s debut for fear of losing it to France. SanÃ© holds passports for both countries and have taken a different option. â€œI wasn’t really interested in doing that,â€ he said. â€œI was born in Germany, grew up in Germany, and when I was in the process of becoming a professional footballer, I felt like a German.â€
All the time that SanÃ© father, Suleyman, in the French army and the international caps he won for Senegal could have several options open to her son, in terms of nationality, there seems to be little doubt that young Leroy would grow up an athlete. In addition to playing 55 times for Senegal, Souleymane was top scorer of the Austrian League for Tirol Innsbruck and Freiburg in Bundesliga 2 in his time, and he married an Olympic gymnast in Regina Weber.
All three of the SanÃ©, the children were on the Schalke books at once, and Leroy, the two brothers still are. SanÃ© says that he gets his rhythm from his father, who once clocked 10.7 sec for 100m, and its grace and balance of his mother, but surely what everyone wants to know is what the family meal has been, as in the example of a sports emissions? â€œNormal, I would say,â€ is the surprising answer. â€œMy parents knew what I should eat to prepare for a career in football, but they were not pushy or strict about it. They gave me the choice. They made sure that I knew what was best to eat, but they never told me that I couldn’t eat certain things. There is no pressure, if I wanted to go to Mcdonald’s, they said, OK, so sometimes I’ve done it.â€
SanÃ© is on his own in a new city, for his parents and other friends of Germany, come see it as often as they can. â€œI love living here, I still see a lot of my family and they have seen a lot of games,â€ he said.
He admits that it took him some time to express themselves on the field, put down to a mixture of nerves and inexperience. â€œI have been young, and playing against big players and big clubs,â€ he said. â€œAt first, I thought they were better than me and maybe I was a little scared too. I was in a new country and a new league and it is completely different to what I was used to the Bundesliga.
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â€œI had come to the back of a long season with Schalke and the Germany, Manchester City paid a lot of money for me and I was probably trying to do everything too quickly. In the end, Pep Guardiola came up to me and said to me: “Play like you used to Schalke, because you were there.â€™ This seemed to help, you can’t help but feel confident if someone who has worked with the likes of Lionel Messi and all the others, believes in you. It was the week before my first goal, and since then, I believe that I’ve been playing around with more freedom.â€
Arsenal will not need to remember. SanÃ© scored another goal against them at the Emirates earlier this month and is now looking to make it three out of three for his first visit to Wembley. The city seems to work better on the greatest heights and with Guardiola hints that Jesus could be close to a return SanÃ© is the hope of his first season in England can be completed by a final. â€œWith the fans divided into two sections, I have been told it is an amazing feeling if you score from your own end,â€ he says. â€œMost of the players already but I am very excited about playing at Wembley.â€