Manchester City forward Leroy Sane has tipped Chelsea to be the champions’ nearest challengers next season. The London club have had a chaotic summer, with their sacking of manager Antonio Conte not confirmed until after the start of pre-season training. Maurizio Sarri has succeeded Conte, and Sane saw enough from two matches against his Napoli side last season to think he will have a positive impact.The Blues finished fifth last season, outside the Champions League places and 30 points adrift of runaway champions City.
“Chelsea have brought in a really good coach,” he said.”The way Napoli played last season was really attractive. We really suffered against them. They might need some time to get used to his tactics but they could be a really tough team.”Asked who represents City’s biggest threat to retaining the title, he said: “I think Chelsea.”
City faced Napoli in the Champions League group stage last season – beating them 2-1 at home and 4-2 away.Sane, 22, is one of the few senior players on City’s three-match tour of the United States, a legacy of his shock omission from Germany’s World Cup squad. Bernardo Silva, part of the Portugal squad that exited the World Cup in the last 16, joined the squad in New York on Monday as they prepare for Thursday’s match against Liverpool (01:05 BST).
Teenage midfielder Phil Foden was also present on the day an England Under-19 squad he – and many others on club duty – could have been a part of, exited the European Championship at the group stage. He said: “When you get a chance in the first team, you need to take it. It was right to stay with City and try to develop and become a better player.”
Sane being dropped from the German squad was a surprise after an excellent season with City, which saw him named the Premier League’s young player of the year. He scored 14 goals and assisted 19 in all competitions as City won the league with five games to spare. Midfielder Ozil scored five times and made 14 assists for Arsenal. However Ozil did create 84 chances in the Premier League, compared to Sane’s 58.
Low said it was a “very close decision” between Sane and Julian Brandt, who scored 12 goals and made seven assists for fifth-placed Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen this year. Sane had played in six of Germany’s past seven games, including starting in their most recent game – Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Austria.
Pep Guardiola will have an embarrassment of riches in the attacking third next season with Sane, Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva all likely to be competing for two spots in City’s starting line-up.But Sane is embracing the competition and believes City will reap the benefits later in the season.
“He [Mahrez] is a great player. He will add so much quality to our game and will help us to get better,” Sane said. “I think to have competition is really good. It is good for a team to know you always have to give 100 per cent, you have to always be ready and you have to always play good. The squad is what makes the team better. We can rotate more. Bernardo Silva can play more in the middle. We can be fitter and fresher in the games. Players will not have to play all the games during the season and can have some recovery.”
City’s next pre-season game is against Liverpool at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Thursday.City have made just one signing so far this summer, breaking their transfer record to sign Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for £60m.