Analysis: What can Dortmund fans expect from wonderkid Jadon Sancho?

Borussia Dortmund managed to pull off a huge coup with this signing, one which surprisingly went under the radar on deadline day this summer.

Manchester City’s teenage winger Jadon Sancho has joined Peter Bosz’s first-team squad for a reported £8m fee and at 17-years-old, it’s a testament to both his current ability and potential for further development that he is regarded so highly.

Background

Jadon Sancho is very talented and someone that I’ve personally had my eye on for quite a while now, yet only this time last year he was receiving his GCSE grades.

After seven successful years in Watford’s youth ranks, Sancho made a lucrative move to join Manchester City on an initial scholarship contract – £500,000 – the highest fee for a 15-year-old to date and he hasn’t looked back since.

Perhaps he knew that, in spite of Pep Guardiola’s presence at Eastlands, a first-team pathway was unlikely. City alongside Chelsea represent two of Europe’s best sides at Academy level and their world-class facilities, as well as regular player coverage, mean their youngsters are often scouted by potential suitors across the continent.

On his debut at U18 level, he netted a quick-fire brace and looked remarkably comfortable. Considering he’d just joined for a significant fee and was looking to make his mark, he had certainly done so.

Progression continued across the U18 Premier League and UEFA Youth League, where he continued to develop his efficiency in the final third and was challenged by a higher calibre of opponents in the process.

Golden Boy and first-team doubts

It was time for international duty at a major tournament and in May, Sancho was part of an England U17 side stung by ultimate heartbreak in the final – losing on penalties against Spain after conceding a stoppage-time leveller.

He was excellent during the tournament, netting five and creating five more of England’s 15 goals during the competition. Named the Golden Player as a result of his dazzling performances, which kept supporters on their feet in Croatia, reports about his future continued to intensify afterwards.

RB Leipzig and top-flight rivals Arsenal were two of the sides heavily linked with moves for his signature, especially as it was made clear he was uncertain that first-team assurances would actually come to fruition.

Then they signed Bernardo Silva for £45m and Patrick Roberts’ future – at least in the short-term – was questioned by newspapers. Roberts, 20, signed from Fulham for a fee rising up to £13.5m two summers ago. After showing maturity beyond his years in five UEFA Youth League fixtures, he was loaned out to Scottish champions Celtic on an 18-month spell – 17 goals and 21 assists later, he returned but was no closer to the first-team picture.

Perhaps foreshadowing his own future, Sancho made clear a strong desire to leave and did so in the most effective (and least accepted) way possible: refusing to train or make himself available. Many players, especially in the Premier League, have been accused of deploying a similar tactic this summer to convince their clubs into selling and Sancho’s stance is both understandable but frustrating from City’s perspective.

Having invested so much into his development in the hopes he’d be patient and wait for a senior breakthrough like Phil Foden and Brahim Díaz, Sancho’s eagerness to play competitive football has seen them lose one of their brightest talents in recent seasons.

Yes, many City fans are upset that he refused to train and made himself scarce for weeks. However, questions about his maturity and professionalism are naive especially as many who criticise don’t know Jadon Sancho personally or his motivations for wanting to leave. If he had signed an improved deal with the Citizens, he’d have become one of the highest-paid teenagers in England – £30,000-a-week was the figure they were prepared to offer. This just highlights the fact that he’s not motivated by money, instead worried (and rightly so) that senior minutes are easier to come by elsewhere.

He could’ve handled the situation in a better fashion, granted. But ultimately, he got what he set out to achieve – a move abroad, a brave decision and one which has huge potential to see him flourish.

What to expect

A hard-working, creative but equally exciting winger who relishes the challenge of taking players on.

His dribbling and workrate are impressive attributes, whilst electric pace make him a nightmare for defenders to contend with. He has shown an ever-improving finishing ability, though an unselfish nature in the final third is also an attractive aspect of his game as he can pick out passes for teammates in space too.

Versatility to play across the forward line make him a welcome fit and his youthful exuberance will provide more firepower to Dortmund’s conveyor belt of blossoming talent.

What not to expect

It’s easy to forget that Jadon Sancho is still only 17-years-old. His transition to Germany could be similar to fellow winger Christian Pulisic, who took time to settle and learn the language before a first-team breakthrough early last year.

A new country, new culture and having to integrate among unfamiliar surroundings can faze plenty of talented youngsters. It’s important that expectation is set relatively low, at least from the offset, to ensure Jadon Sancho can develop at a rapid rate and do so without much unnecessary pressure.

He has had issues with consistent decision-making in the final third at times, though you’ll expect he will learn with senior experience and gel with new teammates too – who will help him improve as a player.

Verdict: He’s unlikely to command such a high fee in comparison to former No.7 Ousmane Dembélé should he leave BvB in the next few seasons, though Sancho’s progress is definitely exciting to watch and experience with the Bundesliga giants should prove invaluable for him going forward. 

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