Schalke have one of the Bundesliga’s best center backs in Salif Sané, and we can only hope he is able to stay in Gelsenkirchen for the long haul.
While young center backs Ozan Kabak and Jean-Clair Todibo became the biggest stories for Schalke in defense over the course of the 2019-2020 season, the loss of leader and stalwart defender Salif Sané left a void.
Sané has been one of the most under-appreciated players in the Bundesliga over the past couple of seasons. Even when the Royal Blues struggled mightily in 2018-2019, Sané never gave up. He showed intensity in defense, calmness with the ball at his feet, and a desire to always give it his all on both ends of the pitch, including in the box on set pieces.
When the Senegal international went down with a serious knee injury in early November, fans feared the worst for the Schalke back line. They had already just seen fellow star center back and key team leader Benjamin Stambouli suffer a broken foot earlier, and they could not have anticipated new signing Kabak so seamlessly slotting in next to Matija Nastasic in defense.
Before Sané went down with the injury, he was in the midst of another excellent season for the Royal Blues. In fewer than 700 minutes, Sané scored two goals with one assist from the center back position, completing a crisp 86.6 percent of his passes, per WhoScored.com, as one of the team’s most accurate passers.
The 29-year-old didn’t just exude confidence on the ball, aid in build-up play, and provide a dangerous presence on set pieces. Sané, of course, provided top-class defensive work for Schalke, averaging 1.2 interceptions per game to reinforce the notion that he is one of the best defenders in the league at making interventions and reading the game in front of him.
A well-rounded center back, Sané has been a true star for Schalke over the past couple of seasons since signing from Hannover 96. In his first season with Schalke when he was fully healthy, Sané averaged an astounding 2.3 interceptions per game, holding down the fort for the Royal Blues. He steadied the defense and was a key reason for Die Knappen avoiding a relegation battle.
The recent change in football’s financial situation due to COVID-19 means that Sané is extremely unlikely to leave. He was previously linked to Leicester City for a summer transfer move and has even been on the wishlist of Manchester United fans, but no matter the depth at center back or the Premier League pocketbooks, fans of Die Knappen have never wanted to see Sané go.
His value means even more to the club now with Todibo not likely to return on loan and Stambouli’s future uncertain with an expiring contract. In a time of great instability, the Royal Blues value the consistency Sané brings to the table in all phases of play at center back. Fans can only hope the 29-year-old is able to stay in Gelsenkirchen for as long as possible.