Jadon Sancho is a once in a generation English footballing talent, destined for world superstardom the moment he got a taste of first-team football. He now has the hopes of a nation on his shoulders for a decade at least and the reason so much hope is pinned on his shoulders is the trailblazing manner in which he has started his career.
As a 17-year-old, he turned his back on Manchester City and headed to Borussia Dortmund, where he has gone from strength to strength over the past two years. His success in the Bundesliga has led to other youngsters casting an envious eye abroad as well as other German teams scouring the English youth ranks for more talent.
Even now, Sancho is one of the most wanted players in Europe, and Dortmund know it. There has always felt like something of a ceiling on his career at the Westfalenstadion; as impressive and fashionable a club as they are, Dortmund are unable to compete at the very top consistently. But the deal was always likely to work out for everyone. Sancho, with the help of a platform he wasn’t going to get under Pep Guardiola at City, would develop week by week until he outgrew his surroundings, and he’d be sold off for a huge profit, which would be reinvested.
Everything has been going to plan so far, and elite clubs are queuing up ready to pay what is needed to prize Sancho away. Perhaps the only part of the story not following the script is his relationship with his current employers; reports of being hung out to dry angering Sancho have been followed up by the suggestion of ill-discipline and speculation that he could be sold as early as January.
While that has been played down, it does appear that after 17 goals in 56 league games, Sancho is reaching his endgame at Dortmund. The constant buzz of transfer talk could be about to intensify, and his nationality dictates that most of it will involve Premier League clubs.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reportedly made the teenager his prime summer target five months ago, while Liverpool and Chelsea are ‘keeping tabs’ on the situation. A return to City would seem unlikely given his refusal to accept a gradual introduction into the senior side first time around, and the way Guardiola’s mind works it is difficult to see him offering regular first team action immediately given the improvement development over time has brought the likes of Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden.
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Such is Sancho’s standing in the modern game, he is now one of those players only a few clubs in the world could afford to sign. The reality is, while Chelsea and even Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal would be interested in signing him, it is difficult to see them funding a deal that would likely cost in excess of £100million in the current market. After all, England players are at a premium on these shores, and few have ever shown his potential.
There is no way that signing for Manchester United, however commercially powerful they are, would be a step forward in his career right now. Sancho’s options for a realistic and beneficial Premier League move are slim to non-existent, and he must think very carefully about his next destination, especially if his exit is being fast-tracked by current issues in Germany.
Of the pool of teams who could realistically afford him, Real Madrid and Barcelona are perhaps the most intriguing, given their respective needs to sign attacking stars of the future.
Both clubs were understandably reliant on their main men, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, for a long time. But with Ronaldo already having departed Madrid and Messi at the age of 32, attention must turn to the future. In Eden Hazard and Antoine Griezmann, they have brought in fairly short term options, while they have Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Ousmane Dembele as hopes for the future.
None of them are looking as accomplished as Sancho though, and while Real have seemingly made Kylian Mbappe their next transfer obsession, a move for the England man wouldn’t be the worst idea one day in the relatively near future.
It is vitally important not to get too far ahead though, playing for those two clubs is pressure like nothing else in football, and whoever you are, at the age of 19 that has to be a daunting prospect.
Sancho may not yet be finished in Germany and he still has to fully establish himself internationally, but if and when he does leave Dortmund, the clamour for a return to the Premier League shouldn’t be surrendered to for the sake of it. Staying in Europe, and more specifically heading to Spain, may just be what is best for him.