Hamburg - The last time FC Schalke 04 started a season this well, Leroy Sane's father Souleymane Sane was just ten years old.
It was 1971 and the Royal Blues won six of their first seven matches. Sane's father was growing up in Senegal, 25 years before Leroy was to see the light of day in Essen, when Rolf Rüssman (l.) fired the Royal Blues to the top of the table with his goal in a 2-0 win over SV Werder Bremen.
On Saturday, it was Sane Junior who wrote history for the Gelsenkirchen club, earning them their fourth win on the spin for the first time since January 2014, coming of age with three goals in his last three games. By way of comparison, it took 13 games for the took the 19-year-old to register that total last season.
"You can see he's on a hot streak," said team-mate Leon Goretzka, himself one of the prestigious products of the club's renowned Knappenschmiede talent production line. "All the cogs are turning in the same direction for us at present."
'I wasn't quite ready yet for the Bundesliga last season'
Goretzka is turning one of those cogs in the midfield, with a particularly impressive display in the 1-0 win over Hamburger SV on Saturday evening. "He's certainly one of the players who did the most running," noted Schalke's sporting director Horst Heldt. "Leon played every position in midfield and you can see how high his confidence is."
Just as with Sane, things have changed for the better for Goretzka – and Schalke – this season. "I wasn't quite ready yet for the Bundesliga last season," admitted the 20-year-old. "I was trying to force it. Now things are going well, but there's still a lot I need to improve."
With three home games to come, including the UEFA Europa League clash with Asteras Tripolis, Schalke have every opportunity to improve upon their excellent start. "First of all, we're going to recharge the batteries and then we have Tripolis," said a cautious Heldt. "We desperately want to win that game, and then we face 1. FC Köln on Sunday. It would be nice if we could keep things going."
To help his side do just that, coach Andre Breitenreiter will continue with his rotation policy which may have raised a few eyebrows at the Volksparkstadion, but was ultimately justified by the result. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar spent 90 minutes kicking his heels on the bench, with the coach clearly unfazed by taking potentially painful decisions.
"He hinted last week that he would rotate things," said Heldt, not surprised to see Franco Di Santo leading the line instead of the Dutchman. "All of our players are going to be needed and I think Franco replaced Klaas-Jan well, with his tireless endeavours, and now Huntelaar's all rested up for our Europa League game."
It could hardly be any better, then, for Breitenreiter's Schalke, who bear little resemblance to the side which struggled to snatch a place in Europe last season. The upturn has been remarkable and die Knappen already boast three wins on the road this season - as many as they managed for the entirety of last season. Things are looking up for Breitenreiter's youthful, exuberant bunch.