Leroy Sane (front) - a natural heir to Arjen Robben (back) - will make his Bayern Munich debut against first club Schalke. - © imago
Leroy Sane (front) - a natural heir to Arjen Robben (back) - will make his Bayern Munich debut against first club Schalke. - © imago
bundesliga

Bayern Munich begin title defence against Schalke; Leroy Sane's first club

Bayern Munich's major summer signing Leroy Sane will make his Bundesliga debut for the record German champions against the club where he first made his name, Schalke, in a headline-grabbing kick off to the 2020/21 season.

Sane is back in the Bundesliga after four years at Manchester City where he won two English Premier League titles and an FA Cup. City boss and ex-Bayern coach Pep Guardiola had been impressed by Sane's performances at Schalke where the Germany international winger had emerged from the club's highly productive Knappenschmiede youth academy.

Following the likes of FIFA World Cup winners Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Höwedes and Julian Draxler, Sane made his Bundesliga debut in a Royal Blue shirt late in the 2013/14 season, eventually scoring 11 times in 47 top-flight appearances.

He will now step back into the Bundesliga against the team he originally joined at the age of eight. "It's a fantastic club," Sane said in 2017. "I have a lot to thank Schalke for. I had some very good years there."

Watch: Sane: "Joshua Kimmich tried to call me every day!"

The 24-year-old, who has signed a five-year deal at Bayern, might be thankful to his former club, but he showed no mercy to them when he returned to Gelsenkirchen with City for a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 game in February 2019.

He came off the bench with 13 minutes left to turn the game around, scoring a fabulous free-kick to equalise at 2-2 before Raheem Sterling smash-and-grabbed the English visitors a late winner. Sane also scored in the second leg of the tie which ended 7-0 in City's favour. He refused to celebrate throughout.

Sane is now - along with fellow Schalke youth academy products Leon Goretzka, Neuer and Alexander Nübel - expected to fuel Bayern's bid for a ninth successive Bundesliga crown, starting against their former club on the opening day.

Leroy Sane had a hand in five goals in two legs against former side Schalke in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League - the pick of them this free-kick in Gelsenkirchen. - imago images / Sven Simon

There was a gaping 43-point gap between champions Bayern and 12th-placed Schalke last season, but there had been just three points separating the pair at the mid-point of the campaign. While Hansi Flick led a rejuvenated Bayern to a whopping 49 Rückrunde points from a possible 51, Schalke picked up only nine as their form dropped off dramatically.

"I'm responsible for both phases," admitted Royal Blues coach David Wagner, who is looking for his team to come of the blocks in the same fashion they started 2019/20. "I want us to get back to playing the football that we showed until mid-February, with a lot of courage, intensity and cohesion."

Central to that ambition will be USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie. The Texan, who turns 22 on 28 August, netted three times in 28 Bundesliga appearances last term as well as helping to stop many more at the other end, and has been a cornerstone of the side after breaking into the first team during the 2016/17 season.

Watch: Back to the Roots with McKennie

He will continue to be so in the new season with Schalke looking to found their 2020/21 challenge on the young, talented members of their squad while blending in more seasoned players such as forward Mark Uth and ex-Bayern man Sebastian Rudy, who are both returning to the club from loan spells.

"We have to rely on the young players who emerge from the academy, but also on younger players who we bring to the club. Like Suat Serdar, who came two years ago, or Ozan Kabak last season, Weston McKennie, who went through youth system - these are the players we want and need to bet on in the future," explained Schalke sporting directer Jochen Schneider.

"[Mark] Uth and [Sebastian] Rudy are coming back. These are seasoned Bundesliga players who are the framework for the team. We plan with them."

Bayern won both league games between the pair last season, and have the upper hand in the 100 previous Bundesliga meetings between the pair. Schalke have, however, had some battle royales with the Reds in the past. The pair notably battled for the league title on the final day of the 2000/01 season when an added-time Patrik Andersson goal for Bayern against Hamburg broke Schalke hearts and dashed dreams of a very first Bundesliga crown.

Watch: Andersson steals the league title from Schalke

There were happier faces in Gelsenkirchen during the 2010/11 season. Neuer was in goal for the hosts and Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar were paired in attack, but it was Höwedes and Jose Manuel Jurado who got the goals in a 2-0 Schalke win on Matchday 15, their last victory over Bayern in the league. Raul's early goal and some Neuer heroics at the Allianz Arena then tipped the 2010/11 DFB Cup semi-final Schalke's way. Having taken that major step, Schalke disposed of then-Bundesliga 2 side MSV Duisburg 5-0 in the final.

Fast-forward to 2020 and McKennie will have to be in top form to stop a returning Sane and his new employers getting their latest title defence off to the best possible start.