Jadon Sancho - The teenager leading a revolution
Football : Jadon Sancho’s success with Dortmund could see the floodgates open as more English youngsters head for the top leagues across Europe.
Courage. Ambition. Self-belief. These are the traits I admire most in Jadon Sancho.
Not to forget about his extraordinary ability to weave magic with a ball at his feet, which has left many an opponent floundering and trailing behind him in his wake. In this the era of top English club’s stock piling much of Britain’s underage talent without ever giving them a sniff of first team football, Sancho, unlike thousands of other British starlets, refused to sit and wait. He discovered himself on the continent and now may act as the lightning rod for those to follow.
Having come back from the U17 European Championship, crowned as player of the tournament (England finished as runners up to Spain), Sancho could have rested on his laurels. It would have been easy to settle back into academy life at City, still way down the pecking order and likely to be shipped off on loan, all the while collecting a considerable wage for a teenager just turned 17. Instead Sancho sought assurances over his playing time with the first team, assurances which never came.
At the first signs of unrest countless suitors came knocking, including some of the biggest clubs in world football (Real, Barca, Arsenal and Man Utd all allegedly made approaches) but he chose Dortmund. Steeped in a long history of giving young players opportunities Borussia Dortmund offered Sancho the chance to jump straight into the deep end, involvement with the first team and a chance to prove himself in one of the worlds top leagues. Seizing the moment, Sancho has paid Dortmund’s faith back handsomely with 7 goals and 9 assists in just 22 games so far this season.
Sancho has proven that young talented English teens can go abroad and succeed.
The flip side of the coin sees the top clubs keeping a keen eye on the academies of major English clubs. The English academies are a gold mine waiting to be reaped. Take the top 5 leagues in Europe. Over 66% of the Premier league is made up of foreign players this is considerably more than the Spanish (La Liga: 41.7%) German (Bundesliga: 53%), French (Ligue 1: 46.8%) and Italian (Serie A: 57%) leagues**.
With so many foreign players coming in, youth is being neglected. Yet thanks to the money tree that is the Premier league, EPL clubs invest the most into their academies. So where exactly is this British and Irish talent going? Nowhere is the answer.
Off to the lower leagues or falling out of football altogether. I would love to know the stats on how many of the players in the championship/league 1 are former academy players at City, Chelsea, United, Liverpool, Arsenal etc. I would imagine many of these stayed too long in the top academies, stagnating their own growth and failing to see going abroad as a realistic alternative. Sancho has disproved this hypothesis, the youngsters in these academies can now see beyond the bright lights of the Premier League.
One of the most compelling stories of January’s transfer window was Bayern Munich’s aggressive pursuit of Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi, a transfer which failed to materialise despite Hudson-Odoi’s transfer request. Put yourself in Hudson-Odoi’s shoes. Chelsea had just signed Christian Pulisic, another young foreign talent, for £57 million. Yet again a top premier league club has decided to go out and spend an exorbitant amount of money on talent from abroad rather than put faith in their own youngsters that they’ve spent so much money developing! You may argue that Pulisic was bought purely to draw a US fanbase but to that I say, should Hudson-Odoi fulfil his potential and go on to star for the English national team he would be just as valuable a commercial property. I am straying from my point, in essence the “Hudson-Odoi’s” of the future will see Sancho’s success and think if he can do it why can’t I? At present there are very few English youngsters abroad but Sancho’s success will entice those who aren’t being given a chance at first team football to move abroad and have the confidence to follow in his footsteps.
I would argue that not since David Beckham has an Englishman caused this much of a stir in one of the top leagues abroad. Sancho has the skills to go to the very top but importantly he has showcased to British youngsters that these skills can be honed outside of the Premier League. His age is to be remembered and he must be managed carefully as rumours grow linking him with huge moves in the summer ahead. Due to turn 19 in March, I would not discount the benefits of staying in Germany with Dortmund. This is his breakout season and he may well turn out to be a Bundesliga champion by the end of it, he is in a good situation at Dortmund and giving it another year may make him just help to mature a little more before facing the looming spotlight of the English press should he to return home. Then again who am I to give this man advice, he is clearly mentally a strong individual, proven by going abroad st such a young age. Money is not his sole motivator as seen by his refusal of City’s contract offer of becoming their highest paid academy player (a rumoured £30,000 a week contract). His is not swayed by such fortunes and his maturity for one so young can only be admired.
And whilst Sancho may well return to England and the riches of the Premier League in the future, he has made his mark, making British youngsters realise that there is football outside of England and they can be kick-start their career on the continent. The English national team may well benefit most from Sancho’s decision to leave for the Bundesliga.
**Stats taken from https://www.transfermarkt.com/