Leroy Sané and Alphonso Davies Are Set to Team Up at Bayern & It’s Just Not Fair

TF-Images/Getty Images

“With his speed he could be a very good 100 metres runner, another Usain Bolt,” Schalke 04 U19 manager Norbert Elgert.

“Meep meep meep meep’ the Bayern roadrunner comes ahead and steals the ball!” Thomas
Müller.

Two separate quotes, with two slightly different ways of getting their point across, about two different players. But the same attribute as a theme in both – speed which almost no-one else playing football is capable of matching – about two footballers in Leroy Sané and Alphonso Davies that will not just be playing their football at the same club but on the same left flank next season.

Bayern, unlike the majority of Premier League full-backs since 2016, have now succesfully completed the pursuit of Manchester City star Sané, and will be planning ahead for a season where they can stick him in front of the most talked-about Canadian teenager since Justin Bieber.

The immediate word which springs (or more like sprints) to mind is pace, and in fairness, in this case it’s not entirely lazy to say that this is what will distinguish the pair from the various other elite winger/wing-back combinations in Europe at present.

Achraf Hakimi is a man who, to put it lightly, has a bit of a spring in his step, and it is generally the case that once the former Borussia Dortmund right wing-back peeled away from you, you could just give up trying to catch him and walk back to the center circle.

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Davies silenced Hakimi in the most recent installation of Der Klassiker | FEDERICO GAMBARINI/Getty Images

He was playing the game at a crawling pace against Davies in Bayern’s 1-0 win over Dortmund in May, where the Moroccan looked about as quick as a sleepwalking Nikola Žigić against a young left-back who makes it his business to protect every last morsel of space behind him.

But Davies is not the first full-back ever to be fleet of foot, and what is obvious from his defensively rigid showing against Die Borussen as much as his frightening acceleration is his sense of positioning.

In much the same way that the Looney Tunes Road Runner’s impressive record of dropping pianos on Wile E. Coyote’s head was as much to do with his guile and timing as his turn of pace, the Bayern roadrunner’s intuitive knack for defensive positioning is what really stands out from that Dortmund game.

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Pace is just the tip of the iceberg for Sané and Davies | Michael Regan/Getty Images

In the much tweeted and retweeted video of Davies catching up to Erling Braut Håland when the former is well behind the halfway line and the latter is bearing down on the final third, it’s not just the Canadian’s wheels which impress but his sense of steering and when to take his foot off the gas.

Davies slows his momentum just early enough to avoid conceding a penalty, but also just in time to get an arm in front of Håland and put him off, and by the time that the Norwegian is finally ready to shoot the entirety of his fellow wunderkind‘s body is in front of him.

He’s not all recovery runs and tidy tackling either, and despite not starting Bundesliga matches regularly until Hansi Flick’s installation as manager in November, his attacking numbers are up there with anyone else’s in the league – he had the second most successful dribbles in the league during the 2019/20 season, while only five more players put more crosses into the box than the youngster in the same period.

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Sané was one of the best players in the Premier League in the 2017/18 campaign | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

How does this ode to Alphonso Davies have any bearing on Sané, you might ask? Well, think about what those numbers mean for a winger playing in front of Davies.

The teenager can overlap, create chances from the flanks, effortlessly track back to recover the ball and disrupt a low block with his penetrative dribbling. In other words, he’s a winger’s dream, providing defensive cover and a dynamic partner to attack deep defences alongside, and for one winger who is looking to return to and surpass his peak, he could be just the tonic.

Leroy Sané in the 2017/18 edition of the Premier League was pretty good. Like, more goal contributions than Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Son Heung-min good.

Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne
Sané even outshone de Bruyne in 2017/18 | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

As with Davies, the key to Sané was blistering pace, with a side of basically everything else.

If football was all about pace, Daniel James would be the best player in the Premier League. If football was all about pace and skilful dribbling, Adama Traoré would be the best player in the Premier League. If football was all about pace, skilful dribbling and pas– well, you get the point.

In 2017/18, Sané combined all the virtues of a top forward to win the PFA Young Player of the Year award, and delving deeper into the stats gives us a picture of just how significant his achievements were that year.

Leroy Sane
If Sané reaches anything approaching his old levels, Bayern instantly have one of the best players in the world | TF-Images/Getty Images

To begin with, a pretty simple one – the only player with more assists than Sané in the league was a Mr de Bruyne, and given the attacking talent that I’ve already mentioned that is no mean feat. But as well as ranking 10th in the league for succesful dribbles, Sané was scoring with a ludicrous 53% of his shots on target.

Anyone who remembers his second and Manchester City’s fifth against Liverpool at the Etihad that season, a curling left-footed effort which you’d need three goalkeepers to get near, will recall exactly how deadly he could be at his best, a perfect storm of creativity, high-speed dribbling and a lethal finishing touch.

Many will probably suspect that this was the best it would get for Sané, who amidst rumoured attitude problems with the German national team – which his former coach Elgert chalks down to misunderstandings about his body language – and having suffered an ACL injury in last August’s FA Community Shield, is in the most difficult period of his career.

Kingsley Coman
Sané would be battling with Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry for a starting spot | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

In his move to Bayern, he’s arrived at a project and a team with the same ambitions as Manchester City’s, but in a more familiar environment where at worst he adds depth to an already formidable squad, and at best he takes an already fearsome attack to new heights.

Indeed, when Sané does regain match fitness, he has a very realistic route to a permanent starting berth – while he is still a valued player in Bavaria, Kinsley Coman has not been able to produce at the exact same standard that his colleague on the flanks Serge Gnabry has, and Sané at his best would blow the Frenchman’s numbers out of the water.

In Davies, Sané has a defensive rock to rely on who will contribute to alleviating much pressure – the German will be leaving no rookie exposed if he wanders out of position, and with a player so multi-talented behind him, he can afford to focus on the simpler aspects of his game until he gets up to speed.

Thomas Muller, Alphonso Davies
Davies will have an impressive senior figure to learn from in Sané | PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Davies, too, has an opportunity to reap the benefits of Sané’s impending arrival – he’ll have a player who was a lynchpin in a side that won the Premier League with 100 points just a few yards in front of him after all – and learning to cater his passing to the intelligent movement and superfast reflexes of a former Pep Guardiola lieutenant may well be the biggest test of his career.

But should Sané get back to even 80% of capacity? And should Davies match his intensity and quick thinking? Well, Bundesliga defenders had better invest in some rollerblades.

Let’

How ‘Plan B’ Naby Keïta Can Still Be Key to Liverpool Success

Naby Keita
Naby Keïta could be a huge part of any success Liverpool enjoy in the near future | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Naby Keïta has endured a frustrating two years at Liverpool.

That’s not to say his spell at the club so far hasn’t been successful; a Champions League and a Premier League winner’s medal isn’t a bad return after just 24 months with a club. However, his influence on the team certainly hasn’t been as great as he, or many fans, would have hoped when he accepted Liverpool’s famous number eight shirt, previously worn by Steven Gerrard no less, back in 2018.

It was Keïta's sublime through-ball that unlocked the visitors' defence in Liverpool's win over Aston Villa
It was Keïta’s sublime through-ball that unlocked the visitors’ defence in Liverpool’s win over Aston Villa | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

However, that could all be about to change.

Liverpool will look to defend their Premier League crown next season – something only one team has successfully done in the past 11 years. It may seem odd that only Manchester City have retained the title in over a decade, yet, there’s a reason back-to-back coronations are such a rarity.  

When a team turns from challengers to champions, they become the league’s golden goose – the side everyone wants to beat. This forces the champions to adapt or risk becoming predictable and easy to read.

In Keïta, Liverpool have the variety of midfielder to avoid becoming one dimensional.

The Reds’ biggest asset is undoubtedly their wide play. The width and movement of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané have become a feature of Jürgen Klopp’s side’s play, while full backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have a combined 20 assists this season. However, such is the electric pace and threat of the wide options, teams are beginning to sit deeper and deeper against Liverpool – specifically when visiting Anfield – and this is only going to continue now they’ve been crowned champions of England.

The club’s recent win over Aston Villa was a perfect example of this, with the visitors spending large periods of the game soaking up the Liverpool pressure before Keïta’s incredible eye-of-the-needle pass unlocked the Villa defence, allowing Mané to open the scoring.

Despite the 2-0 win, the home side mustered just one shot on target in the opening 70 minutes, as Villa looked to sit deep and invite pressure before springing a counter-attacking.

The upside of this quandary is there’ll be more room in front of the opposition as they retreat back to their own goal, and the best man to exploit that space in the Liverpool midfield is Keïta.

While each of Klopp’s midfield men possess their own individual qualities – whether it be breaking up play or spraying long diagonals around the pitch – Keïta’s biggest strength is undoubtedly his ball-carrying ability.

The former RB Leipzig man has a low centre of gravity and possesses a good turn of pace to be able to easily manoeuvre himself away from challenges. His time in the Bundesliga saw him become synonymous with incisive, darting runs from the midfield, breaking the lines of opposition sides who were looking to keep a rigid shape and perhaps nick a late winner.

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Keïta’s goal threat was a huge part of his game at Leipzig | ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

Another aspect of Keïta’s game which could become hugely important in Liverpool’s future success is his eye for goal. The 25-year-old arrived at Anfield with a record of 37 goals in 152 senior appearances, yet has scored just six in 55 games for Liverpool.

The Reds’ over-reliance on their front three could ultimately become their downfall. With no backup of a similar calibre and the club unwilling to splash out on players such as Timo Werner in an attempt to bolster their attacking options, injuries could see Klopp’s side lose a huge portion of their goals.

If Keïta can rediscover his goalscoring touch, the club’s dependency on Salah and Mané (with Roberto Firmino without a Premier League goal since January) could be hugely reduced.

In truth, Klopp’s style of play doesn’t really suit the Guinea international – if anything Keïta’s ability to carry the ball slows down the rapid Liverpool break. However, as the club look to defend their Premier League crown, Klopp will know his side need to display variety as teams attempt to stifle their attacking threat, and Keïta could be the ‘plan B’ Liverpool need.

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David Villa’s New American Project & Who Queensboro FC Have Hired as Head Coach

David Villa is co-chairman of Queensboro FC.
David Villa is co-chairman of Queensboro FC. | Hiroki Watanabe/Getty Images

David Villa is a familiar face all around the world.

For almost two decades, the 38-year-old was a relentless goalscoring machine who represented some of the most reputable clubs in the game. He conquered Europe, Asia and North America, but is perhaps known best for his three-year stint at Barcelona, as well as for his international exploits for Spain.

But ask anybody in the vicinity of New York City – and those who are affiliated with the football club of the same name – and they’ll have entirely different memories of Villa.

Between 2014 and 2018, the diminutive striker helped the (relatively) newly formed MLS franchise – sister club of Premier League heavyweights Manchester City – put themselves on the global map, notching 77 goals as he helped grow the game on the east coast.

David Villa, Sergio Ramos
David Villa played a key role in Spain’s 2010 World Cup triumph. | Clive Mason/Getty Images

Not only did Villa become one of the club’s first icons, he then decided to stay put following his retirement from the game. Now, he’s taken on a business venture that isn’t too dissimilar to that of David Beckham down in Miami.

So what’s the deal?

Well, Villa is one of the leading figures at Queensboro FC – a newly-formed club based in the borough of Queens, New York – and has taken up the role of co-chairman.

‘Boro will enter the United Soccer League (USL) in 2022 – a year after they were originally slated to enter the professional ranks – and after months of planning, they’ve taken another step towards making their dream a reality by appointing a head coach – Josep Gombau, a Spaniard who has experience of working at Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy.

David Villa
David Villa scored 77 goals for New York City. | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

“I have followed Josep’s career for a very long time, and had the opportunity to work with him to create the methodology of my DV7 Soccer Academies globally, as well as launch my very first academy in New York,” Villa said in a press release.

“He is the perfect choice for Queensboro FC and I am happy to welcome him back to New York. Together, we will oversee all sporting aspects of the club, laying the groundwork for us to succeed at the highest level and be recognised all over the world. For certain, a coach of this caliber will help take soccer in this country to a new level.”

As yet, there are no plans for Villa to lead Queensboro towards achieving MLS status. But with the league continually looking to expand, along with an increased pool of talent playing the game, there’s no reason why the club can’t aspire to rub shoulders with LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls and co.

As for Gombau, he’s committed to bringing together the people of Queens, giving the borough something they can be proud of in years to come.

“New York is a very special place for me and my family,” he noted. “The city is in a unique moment right now, and I am looking forward to contributing to its renewal and revitalization through the lens of sport, community and grassroots efforts.

“I am committed to bringing together a diverse mix of homegrown and international players, to form the first ever professional soccer team that the borough of Queens can call its own.”

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Michael Owen Gives Alternative Reason for Liverpool Ending Timo Werner Pursuit

Michael Owen
Michael Owen has offered his thoughts on Liverpool’s attacking depth | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen has pointed towards Divock Origi’s contract extension as a factor in why the club didn’t push the boat out for Timo Werner.

Despite being heavily tipped to land RB Leipzig striker Werner for several months, Liverpool decided against a deal and were left to watch on as the player joined Premier League rivals Chelsea instead.

With a release clause of £53m, many were surprised Liverpool backed away from the deal. Werner’s 28 Bundesliga goals this season hint at what could be one of the bargains of the summer, but the impact of the pandemic has shifted Liverpool’s priorities.

Giovanni Reyna, Timo Werner
Timo Werner joined Chelsea despite months of links to Liverpool | Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp has spoken of how the club don’t expect to spend big this summer following months of financial uncertainty – though links continue for Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara.

With pursestrings tighter than normal, former Red Owen has questioned Liverpool’s attacking depth, while also suggesting that a new contract for Origi may have been a factor in restricting the club’s flexibility in the transfer market.

Owen told Premier League Productions, via the Express: “Will Origi and Takumi Minamino be there next season? Yes they will.

“Origi’s just signed a new contract and Minamino’s only just signed. They are there and they’re fixed but that doesn’t mean you can’t question whether they should be.

Divock Origi
Divock Origi celebrates scoring in the Champions League final | Kaz Photography/Getty Images

“He’d [Origi had] done what he’d done [in the Champions League final] and all of a sudden they thought that he’s done that so you have to give them a new contract. That’s now prevented them from going and spending big on a back-up striker.”

Despite his reputation as someone who pops up and scores important goals for Liverpool when they need them, Origi has struggled to hit the back of the net on a regular basis. In fact, the Belgian has only scored one goal in 2020, with a total of five throughout the entire season.

Owen added that he believes Klopp and Liverpool may regret the decision to watch Werner head to Stamford Bridge.

Michael Owen
Michael Owen has questioned the depth of Liverpool’s atacking options | Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

“Timo Werner was obviously a player that Liverpool were linked to and he’s eventually gone to Chelsea.

“I think that type of player would have been brilliant for Liverpool. They signed Origi on a long-term contract that virtually ruled out a back-up striker and I’m not sure that they don’t need a better one.”

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Rhian Brewster’s Form Gives Jurgen Klopp a Choice to Make This Summer

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Rhian Brewster | Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Liverpool fans were dealt a mini-blow in the transfer market this summer, a hint of a reminder that not everything can go their way in the 2019/20 season. If, somehow, you haven’t noticed – Timo Werner, long linked with a move to Anfield, went to Chelsea. Because Liverpool didn’t really have the money to sort the deal out right now.

Jurgen Klopp still wants to add a new dimension to his attack though, and the answer could already be at the club. Adding another elite striker in an already stacked Liverpool attack would cause a selection headache – and dropping Salah, Firmino or Mane would appear ridiculous considering their effectiveness in that deadly three-pronged attack.

The club’s academy remains one of the best in the country though, Trent Alexander-Arnold emerging to become one of the world’s best at his position while Sheyi Ojo, Harry Wilson, Rafael Camacho and – let’s not forget – Raheem Sterling all coming through to various success in recent years.

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Liverpool academy graduate Trent Alexander Arnold | Pool/Getty Images

There are a few emergent talents in the pipelines at Anfield now, readying for Klopp to call upon them like he did with Neco Williams and Curtis Jones on the weekend – and Rhian Brewster might be the leading light of the bunch.

Brewster emerged as one of the nation’s hottest young strikers during England’s Under-17 World Cup back in 2017, netting eight times during the course of the tournament to claim the Golden Boot.

Former academy boss Steven Gerrard spoke highly of his progress through the youth ranks at the club – and when Gerrard speaks, people on Merseyside tend to listen.

We all know he has got the talent and the ability. If Rhian wants to go far and stay at the top, if he can put in that work rate and relentless running, that’s how he’s going to get the better of most defenders.”

– Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard coached Brewster in Liverpool’s U-18s | Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Brewster has managed just three appearances for the first team since that prodigious World Cup campaign. An ankle injury hampered his development earlier in the season, and as Liverpool went from strength to strength, Brewster was left to wait.

Klopp remained adamant that the youngster is part of future plans at Liverpool, but with first-team opportunities too hard to come by, he was loaned out to Championship outfit Swansea.

In a move which saw him link up with former manager Liam Cooper – the man behind England’s Under-17 World Cup victory – Brewster has rediscovered the sort of form that saw him shoot to fame some three years ago.

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Rhian Brewster celebrating England’s World Cup win | AFP Contributor/Getty Images

The 20-year-old has scored seven goals in 15 appearances for the Swans, including a rapid-fire brace against Middlesbrough; netting at a reasonably handy rate of one goal per 180 minutes overall and one per 114 minutes since the restart. Not only does he score goals, Brewster has an engine on him, often times dropping deep into midfield to help launch attacks.

He’s Swansea’s second top goalscorer despite only joining in January. His impressive run of form poses the question, what does the future hold for Brewster?

Liverpool currently have just two natural centre-forwards in the squad: Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi, leaving Brewster with an easier transition into a rotational role than the club’s stacked forward line would suggest.

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino
Brewster could provide ideal backup for Liverpool’s frontline | Jan Kruger/Getty Images

We’ve seen the success Tammy Abraham has had in the Premier League following an impressive spell in the Championship. The Chelsea forward was patient when waiting for his chance to shine for the Blues, and when his opportunity came, he seized it.

Brewster’s eye-catching form in the Championship has helped his development and confidence. Whether it is with Liverpool or another loan away, Brewster is ready to test his mettle in the Premier League.

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