Pep Guardiola says Leroy Sane is “far away” from his best despite scoring in Manchester City’s 2-1 friendly defeat by Liverpool.
The Germany international, who rejoined his City team-mates on the first day of pre-season after being omitted from his country’s World Cup squad, won the Premier League young player of the year award for 2017/18, in his second season in English football.
But despite coming off the bench to score against a largely experienced Liverpool side in the second of City’s games at the International Champions Cup, Guardiola said the 22-year-old needed to improve before the season begins.
“It depends on him,” he told the club’s official website. “He needs more minutes and he needs to regain his principles in terms of playing without the ball.
“He has the talent to do that and we are happy that he scored. Still, he is far away from his best.”
A City starting line-up featuring only Riyad Mahrez as a regular first-team player took the game to their opponents at the MetLife Stadium, and they led through Sane’s goal until Mohamed Salah’s header and a last-minute penalty from Sadio Mane gave the Reds victory.
Guardiola was more pleased with how close his side came to an upset, however, with youngsters including Phil Foden, Luke Bolton and Cameron Humphreys all starting.
“It is incredible, what we have done,” he added. “For 75 minutes, it was incredible what we did with the players we have against that team – finalists of the Champions League, who have amazing players.
“Our personality was incredible. The average age of our players in the first half was very young. I am so proud and I am so happy to be manager of these guys for that reason.
“For the last 15 minutes, we were so tired. We made some changes and in the last few minutes, Liverpool deserved to score goals.”