Jadon Sancho – Stick or Twist?
While Borussia Dortmund have endured a recent slump in the Bundesliga, England starlet Jadon Sancho has vastly improved on his early season form. Jack Donnelly looks at the winger’s future, and whether he would benefit from a move away from the Signal Iduna Park.
Last season, Jadon Sancho was the hottest commodity in the Bundesliga, and spent the summer flirting with some of Europe’s biggest clubs. This season, however, the Borussia Dortmund winger has been lost amidst a sea of young, talented footballers in Germany’s top division. Sancho is not even the brightest young prospect at his own club – Erling Haaland and Gio Reyna have drawn eyes away from the England international, while the likes of Jude Bellingham and Youssouf Moukoko continue to knock on the door of the first team.
In fairness to Sancho, this dip in interest is not entirely his fault. While it is true that his early season form was far below his usual standard, Dortmund as a team are completely off the pace this season. Die Borussen occupy 6th place in the Bundesliga table, 16 points behind league leaders Bayern Munich. Even with Haaland having scored 15 league goals, his teammates have been unable to contribute nearly as much, with Sancho’s four goals leaving him second in the scoring charts.
Sancho has begun to return to his best in 2021, scoring four and assisting four in seven league games. This upturn of form has people taking notice, even if his team aren’t yielding the most positive results. Given that Dortmund are at risk of missing out on Champions League football for next season, it will be a much harder task for them to keep a hold of Sancho, especially with how close he came to leaving the club last summer. With that said, should Sancho leave, where would he end up?
Option 1 – Manchester United
This was always going to remain as an option.
Manchester United’s pursuit of Sancho last summer dominated the back pages for several weeks, as a long and arduous battle to strike a deal between the clubs took place. Sancho was reportedly very open to the transfer and was keen to return to his native England ahead of the 2020/21 season. However, with United unwilling to match Dortmund’s enforced valuation of £108 million, the deal fell through and the media frenzy fizzled out. Sancho himself has admitted that the move’s collapse left him unsettled and as a result, his form took a downwards turn this season.
While United’s interest is no longer reported daily, it has not disappeared entirely. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains a firm admirer of Sancho and considering that the Premier League club’s only true right-sided midfielder currently plays in their youth team, Sancho could well be the final piece to the puzzle that the Norwegian is assembling at Old Trafford. Should United clinch Champions League football, I could see this move materialising in the early stages of the transfer window and given Sancho’s interest in moving back to the UK, all it would take would be for the two clubs to agree on a fee. However, I don’t see United being the only club in Manchester interested in securing Sancho’s services…
Option 2 – Manchester City
Currently, Manchester City look nailed on to secure the Premier League title and are awaiting a Round of 16 tie against Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League. Despite two of the club’s most influential players – Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Agüero – spending the bulk of the season on the treatment table, it’s been a largely successful season so far for City. But could it have been better?
As many an FPL player will know, Pep Guardiola is a big fan of team rotation, but in recent weeks, it’s been fairly easy to nail down a provisional starting XI for Pep’s City. Ederson will almost always retain his place in goal, Joao Cancelo will find his way into the team in either full back role, while the likes of Ruben Dias, John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan and auxiliary captain Raheem Sterling irreplaceable. However, the weak link in the team seems to come from the right wing, with neither Bernardo Silva, nor Riyad Mahrez, nor Ferran Torres turning in consistently impressive performances. Granted, Silva has played as a central midfielder more regularly this season, but neither of the latter two options have been able to nail down a starting spot on the right, with young phenom Phil Foden starting on the right more frequently than in his natural position as an attacking midfielder.
Given inconsistencies from both Mahrez and Torres, I could easily see City making a move for Sancho, who came through the youth ranks of the Manchester club before departing for Germany. However, this seems less likely than United’s potential move, as I could see City prioritising a replacement for the ageing Agüero and hoping that Torres develops into a more regular member of the first team. Still, I certainly wouldn’t rule out a potential return.
Option 3 – Chelsea
With the spending spree that Chelsea embarked on last summer, perhaps a move for a player with an estimated price tag in excess of £100 million would not be the smartest move financially from the London club. However, any and all plans for this summer’s spending have been thrown up in the air with the arrival of Thomas Tuchel in the dugout at Stamford Bridge, meaning that a move could well materialise in the coming summer.
Having grown up in South London, Sancho has previously admitted that he grew up supporting Chelsea and is close friends with a number of the young English contingent at the West London club, such as Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount. He also played with Chelsea’s post-lockdown hero, Christian Pulisic, for two seasons at Signal Iduna Park, forming an electric partnership while flanking the likes of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang.
A huge money move for a young talent from Germany may put Chelsea off of pursuing a deal – especially considering how underwhelming Kai Havertz has been this season. However, with reports in Germany suggesting that Chelsea are interested in a deal and a lack of qualification for the Champions League likely to knock a chunk off of the eventual price tag, it wouldn’t be completely unrealistic to see Sancho turning out in royal blue next season.
Option 4 – Barcelona
Look, it’s no secret that Barcelona are a bit of a mess right now – ENRG Sport covered the ins and outs of Barça’s recent failures. In that particular article, there was talk of a renaissance at the club, being spearheaded by a trio of talented youngsters – namely, Frenkie de Jong, Ansu Fati and Pedri. Sancho could well provide another weapon to this rebuild process, in a position that will likely be vacant come the summer.
It’s no secret that club icon Lionel Messi has been dissatisfied with the running of the club in recent seasons and looks set to move on from his only club at the end of this campaign. This frees up a position on the right wing and, realistically, Ousmane Dembele is nowhere near the level that Barça would be looking for in a replacement – the Frenchman has been unable to sustain regular playtime due to constant injuries and has seen his development into a top player severely stunted. Sancho would provide that immediate injection of quality and hunger to succeed, with his fantastic technical ability more than suited to Spanish football.
This seems the least likely of the four options stated thus far, as the Catalan club’s financial troubles would likely prevent them from making any big money signings in the upcoming summer window. However, on paper, the move makes sense. As one of the greatest footballers of all time takes his leave, one of the most promising players on the planet arrives with huge shoes to fill and a point to prove. Poetically, it makes sense. Financially? Maybe not…
Option 5 – Stay at Dortmund
At the end of the day, a move might not materialise. We’re still only in February, Dortmund still stand a good chance of making the top four, which would secure the Champions League football that a player of Sancho’s ability deserves. On top of that, Marco Rose is set to join Die Borussen ahead of the 2021/22 season, with the current Monchengladbach boss regarded as one of the best in Germany. Given that a move seems increasingly likely, Rose’s first job of convincing Sancho to stay will be no small task.
In any case, Sancho has the ability to play anywhere and has a glittering career ahead of him. It’s little surprise that so many clubs could well be in for his signature in the summer, but any move could well be pushed back into the later stages of the window as a result of the delayed European Championships. Should Dortmund be forced to sell their prize asset, the Germans will find themselves in an unusual position – cheering on the English, if nothing but to squeeze a bit more cash out of Sancho’s eventual destination.