Red hot Sidney Sam striking his way out of Andre Schürrle's shadow

Thorsten Wagner

Sidney Sam is enjoying a breakout season having stepped out of the considerable shadow of Andre Schürrle, but can the Leverkusen man turn explosive form into a spectacular season?

Upon first impressions, 'Kießling, Sam and Son' sounds more like a respectable firm of suburban accountants than it does arguably the most fluid attacking trio in German football.

Given the calibre of competition, I appreciate that is a bold claim, especially given that it comes a matter of months after Bayer Leverkusen lost the brilliant Andre Schürrle to Chelsea. Between them, Stefan Kießling's Hoffenheim ghost goal and all, they have contributed 14 of die Werkself's 22 league goals in a season that sees them just a single point off the Bundesliga pace after 10 games.

You may be tempted to attribute that to the customarily prolific Kießling, who has plundered goals seemingly at his own leisure in recent years. You may even be tempted to look at the impact of Son Heung-Min, the South Korean who impressed sufficiently at Hamburg to convince Bayer he was a worthy incumbent of last summer's vacant left wing berth.

You'd be wrong on both counts. It is actually the often less-heralded Sidney Sam who has risen out of Schürrle's shadow.

It sometimes feels cheap and lazy to judge players comparatively according to numbers alone. A well-timed run away from the ball that creates space in tight areas can often be just as important an ingredient in carving out a chance than a final pass, but it won't put a notch in your 'assists' column.

But whilst statistics can not end debate, they most certainly can aide them, and Sam's make for spectacular reading this term.

Of the 14 Bundesliga goals that Leverkusen's front three have contributed, half belong to Sam. Of the 55 chances they have created, 32 have been credited to the 25-year-old. He already has more of both than he was able to amass in the whole of last season. After just 10 games, he is on the verge of eclipsing what Schürrle did in 34 during his final season at the BayArena.

Of course, who is going to notice yet another brilliant German attacking player at the moment, right? It isn't as if they are short of them. But what is perhaps most striking about Sam isn't how similar he is to his die Mannschaft colleagues, but how different.

You think of the archetypal German forward and names such as Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos, Mario Gomez, Julian Draxler, Mesut Özil, Mario Götze and Schürrle probably spring to mind. Touch players, often tall, with an alluring elegance on the ball and immaculate technique. More footballers, and in the truest sense of the word, than athletes.

His greatest asset is his raw and devastating pace

To say that Sam lacked elegance or technical ability would be unfair, but without question his greatest asset is his raw and devastating pace, particularly when utilised in unison with his low centre of gravity and increasingly clinical left foot. Such a combination is a rarity, not just in German football but in world football.

Having shown a tantalising glimpse of this form now, though, the challenge now is maintaining it, particularly if he is going to fight off the competition to secure a seat on the plane to Brazil this summer.

Four years ago, Kevin-Prince Boateng famously defected to Ghana to take a shortcut to the World Cup finals, and with a Nigerian father a similar route was open to Sam to fast-track himself to this summer's showpiece.

That option is now dead for the Kiel-born forward -- who claimed he "never really thought about Nigeria" -- having been capped in Germany's qualifying campaign, but the competition remains fierce.

The ever-green Lukas Podolski will no doubt come back into the fold following his injury lay-off, and Mönchengladbach's Max Kruse and Hoffenheim's Kevin Volland are providing strong alternatives in terms of left-footed forwards in rich Bundesliga scoring form.

Nevertheless, in stepping out of of Schürrle's shadow at Leverkusen, Sam has proven that he is not one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, it may be just that which is bringing the very best out of him.

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