Who Is Sam?
Shielded by the P word—potential—as a Hamburg youngster, it was only when Sam spent two seasons on loan at 2. Bundesliga team Kaiserslautern that he became noteworthy.
Leverkusen management began drawing up the pros and cons of signing Sam.
The pros outweighed the cons, despite the red flag of him not receiving an extended run to prove himself at Hamburg.
"Sidney Sam has been one of the most exciting players around in the 2. Bundesliga last season and played a major role in Kaiserslautern's promotion," then Leverkusen manager Jupp Heynckes said in 2010, as per Bayer04.de (h/t Goal.com). " I think he will do a great job with us."
Trust Heynckes, a two-time UEFA Champions League-winning manager, to foretell Sam's rise.
This season Sam is performing at a world-class level as a right forward in a 4-3-3 under Leverkusen manager Sami Hyypia, who played 464 games for Liverpool.
Hyypia's front three of Sam, Stefan Kiessling and Heung Min Son have been an entertaining combination to watch in the Bundesliga.
Kiessling is a complete centre-forward: third in the Bundesliga for aerial contests per game (6.2), created as many league assists (seven) as Andre Schurrle last season (now a Chelsea player) and has scored 20 league goals or more in two of the last five seasons.
Son is quick, two-footed, has a high football IQ and is projected to surpass Schurrle's goal total from last season (11 goals from 34 league games; Son already has seven goals from 14 games).
Kiessling and Son have played a pivotal role in Sam becoming one of the best Bundesliga players right now.
The trio have contributed to 71.9 percent of Leverkusen's league goals this season.
Sam, a left-footed inverted wide forward on the right wing, has so many options: He can cut in to shoot, pass to Kiessling, continue dribbling, send a cross-field ball to Son or wait for Gonzalo Castro's box-to-box run.
One strength Sam has shown is his finishing, evident in his goal in a 2-0 win over Hannover 96.
Son's through ball split open Hannover's centre-back pairing of Marcelo Guedes and Salif Sane.
Sam raced on to the pass, looked up and found himself one-on-one with former Manchester United goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler.
Rather than blasting and hoping, Sam calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner with a left-footed finesse instep shot.
Sam has scored seven league goals from 33 shots, which is a superior conversion rate than Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho (two league goals from 59 shots) and Schalke's Julian Draxler (one league goal from 25 shots).
Sam has proven that he can poach goals expertly, mimic Arjen Robben's cut-in-and-shoot goals, while also conjuring up an effort in 2010 against former club Kaiserslautern with a similar difficulty rating as Zinedine Zidane's 2002 Champions League final goal against Leverkusen.
"Some days he [Sam] looks a world-beater, others he can be in and out," former Liverpool and German international Dietmar Hamann wrote for the Daily Mail in the lead-up to England vs. Germany.
"He's got pace, ability and the open spaces of Wembley will suit him."
Give Sam space and he will attack it relentlessly. Not only does he have straight-line speed, but he can turn sharply.
He is an elusive dribbler, a skill on show in a 3-1 win over Wolfsburg where he had a 100 percent success rate in take-ons.
He dribbled past Luiz Gustavo (second in the league for tackles per game), Naldo (a former Brazilian international), Robin Knoche (a promising young centre-back) and Ricardo Rodriguez (one of the best left-backs in the league this season).
The problem opposing teams find when they press Sam is that he makes instant decisions.
Against Borussia Monchengladbach, he dragged three opposing players out of position, made a safe pass to Lars Bender and he passed it to Kiessling, who had taken up Sam's position on the right wing.
With Gladbach disorientated, Sam ran unmarked into the box, received Kiessling's pass and scored.
The only person who had tracked Sam was referee Felix Brych.
Sam's Durability Concerns
The dynamism involved in his playing style has adversely affected his body in recent years.
November 24, 2013, as per Bayer04.de: "An MRI scan on Sunday morning confirmed the worse fears: Sam suffered a torn muscle in his left thigh in the match at Hertha BSC."
February 6, 2012, as per Stefan Coerts at Goal.com: "The attacking midfielder underwent further examination immediately after the match, and a scan has revealed a thigh injury which will keep him sidelined for up to two months."
August 20, 2010, as per UEFA.com: "[Leverkusen are] already having to contend with the absences of Lars Bender (calf) and Sidney Sam (back)."
Clubs need to be aware of Sam's tendency to get injured before giving him a big contract.
He has never played out an entire 34-game Bundesliga season for Leverkusen.
Sam's Contract Situation
The Liverpool link seems tenuous as the German media have been reporting that Sam to Schalke is a done deal.
Kicker: Schalke to sign S.Sam (€2.5m buyout) & F.Giefer (free xfer) in the summer. Both good moves, but says a lot abt S04's spending power— Clark Whitney (@Mr_Bundesliga) December 5, 2013
Reports today, including from Express.de, suggest that Bayer Leverkusen's Sidney Sam's moving a step closer to a summer switch to Schalke.— DW - Sports (@dw_sports) January 5, 2014
Schalke will activate his €2.5 million buyout clause (as per FourFourTwo), which is an administrative blunder on Leverkusen's side.
The shocking part isn't the inexplicably low buyout fee; it is Sam seemingly content with joining Schalke, a club that are nine points behind second-placed Leverkusen.
Another reason why the transfer doesn't make sense is Schalke have an established right attacking midfielder in Jefferson Farfan, who leads the club in league goals (six), scoring chances created (22) and is third in dribbles (33).
Farfan extended his contract in 2012 until 2016, as per FIFA.com.
He is playing well, so it's not like Sam is going to waltz into the Schalke starting XI.
Sam needs to remind himself that this season he is in the ball park of Franck Ribery, a 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or nominee.
This is only the case because Leverkusen management, Hyypia, Kiessling, Son, the other players, the fans and the backroom staff helped him transition from a raw talent to one of the best players in the Bundesliga.
Sam, don't abandon them. Do a U-turn and stay at Leverkusen.