Manchester City’s Leroy Sané was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons following his club’s weekend draw with Middlesbrough. The German played a key role as his side came from behind, but it is not one we should be happy with.
With City trailing 0-1 at The Riverside Stadium, Sané won a crucial penalty. He knocked the ball around Martin De Roon before their legs tangled, causing the City man to hit the deck.
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The protests from the home players were particularly extensive and vociferous. It was clear they were not just trying it on with the referee – they were aggrieved. My first thought on seeing their protestations was, “please don’t have cheated, Leroy.”
Then I saw the replays and I felt let down; Sané had indeed conned the officials. After knocking the ball round De Roon, he then not only drew contact but threw himself into the player’s legs. There was not a foul, only a cheated penalty.
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Petty considerations should not really be a factor here, but the ‘simulation’ by Sané had an unpleasant consequence. After berating Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford for cheating earlier in the day with a similar dive, it meant we City fans immediately lost the moral high ground. That’s not really the important part, but it was irritating all the same.
Now, here’s where I become a hypocrite. After the award of the penalty, did I hope for Sergio Agüero to miss it? Of course not – I celebrated the goal as it drew City level and moved them towards a much-needed point.
Despite the goal and the rescuing of a point – required again after City fell behind a second time – it felt unsatisfying. This is not what football is about.
The joy of sport lies in the battle between competitors each trying to achieve the same goal. The intrigue comes from watching opponents with different skillsets and tactics try to outfox each other. At this elite level, there is the added awe-factor of watching these men do things that you can’t.
Leroy Sané wiped all of that out in an instant. City’s first goal came not from clever play, nor from application of a tactical strategy. Instead, one man removed all of it by faking a foul.
Sané’s action was symptomatic of modern football; somebody will cheat in the next game you watch. It’s just disheartening when it comes from your own club. Of course, my preferred outcome was that City found the equaliser they were seeking, but I’d honestly have preferred Sané to be booked for his dishonest act.
Is success of any kind not cheapened when it isn’t earned fairly? I hope that the football authorities address this scourge of the game soon. Until then, I hope Pep Guardiola has the moral fibre to let his young star know that success earned by cheating is not success at all.