?It’s European football’s worst kept secret right now, but Jadon Sancho appears to be entering his last few months at Borussia Dortmund ahead of a move back to the Premier League.
The 19-year-old’s got a host of clubs across Europe after his signature, but with a price tag well over £100m, most sides on the continent will already be priced out of a move for Sancho, leaving just a select few teams in England with enough cash for the deal.
He’s the most high profile English player since Wayne Rooney’s breakthrough almost two decades ago and plays for every neutral’s second favourite team, but still there’s a certain mysticism when it comes how Sancho might get on in the Premier League.
To really offer any insight into how Sancho will get on back in England, there are two main areas we’ll need to cover – his ability as part of a team and his ability as an individual.
We’re not going to look at how Sancho might fit in at all the different clubs he’s been linked with – you can find that all over ‘Football Twitter’ – but rather what he’s shown at Borussia Dortmund which will benefit any club he joins this summer.
The first and most obvious talking point for Sancho when it comes to his teamwork is the number of assists he’s already picked up during his short career.
It’s for good reason too. In 85 senior appearances, Sancho has directly set up 40 goals, but it’s not just the sheer numbers which make for impressive viewing.
The England international has assisted 17 different players during his time at Borussia Dortmund, most prominently forming a partnership with Marco Reus, who he’s assisted 10 times.
Paco Alcácer (seven), Mario Götze (three), Maxi Philipp, Axel Witsel, Raphaël Guerreiro, Julian Brandt, Achraf Hakimi and even Dan-Axel Zagadou (all two) have been assisted by Sancho on more than one occasion since his debut.
The winger’s ability to play alongside anyone really is highlighted in the stats, but it’s also unavoidable that Sancho is always at his best when he’s playing alongside the best players in the world, hence why he’s already formed a partnership with Reus and is now doing the same with Erling Haaland.
It’s not just Sancho passing in the final third which has earned him plaudits in Germany either as he’s impressed with his long-range ability by switching attacks from one side to another, while his one-touch passing in tight areas has helped to cement his reputation as a Straßenfußballer (street footballer).
Away from his passing and ability with Borussia Dortmund’s attacking players, Sancho’s also established himself as part of one of Europe’s most exciting right-sided partnerships alongside Real Madrid loanee Achraf Hakimi.
Although Sancho’s been used across the front three, he’s settled on the right-wing where he’s supported by Hakimi going forward, who makes overlapping and underlapping runs which opposition defences struggle to deal with.
He won’t be playing alongside Hakimi next season, but it should offer even more excitement for Premier League fans knowing he could have a similar partnership with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James or Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
So that’s what Sancho can bring to a team, but what about as an individual?
The term ‘street footballer’ isn’t something that’s used all that often when it comes to the Premier League, but all the skills Sancho learned playing in concrete cages as a youngster have made him stick out like a sore thumb in the Bundesliga.
It’s easy enough to know the skills and dribbling ability which Sancho naturally has thanks to the way he was brought up in south London, but being a Straßenfußballer is as much about your mentality as it is how you play on the pitch.
At 19, Sancho’s already got an impressive amount of maturity and he always puts the team first. But having been brought up in a culture where nutmegs are worth just as much as a goal, if not even more, the forward stands out even more so than the league’s more technical wingers, like Kingsley Coman or Serge Gnabry.
It’s a way of playing which doesn’t come naturally in European football’s highly technical academies and it will leave him in a fantastic position to adapt back into the Premier League quicker than most.
Ever since his senior debut against Eintracht Frankfurt in October 2017, Sancho’s been earmarked for stardom, but the one area of his game that was really lacking early on at Borussia Dortmund was his ability to score goals.
Sancho didn’t score his first goal for Dortmund until matchday 31 in his first season at the club, but now with another 29 goals to his name, it’s easy to see his threat in the final third is what’s improved the most during his two and a half year spell in Germany.
Since his arrival at the start of the 2017/18 season, only Marco Reus (40) has scored more goals than Sancho across all competitions for Borussia Dortmund.
The 19-year-old still needs to work on becoming more of a threat with his weaker foot and even in the air too – 26 of Sancho’s 30 goals have been right-footed shots – but with plenty of room to develop he’s only going to become more potent in the final third as he gets older.
For fans in the Premier League, Sancho might only be seen once in a blue moon so it’s understandable that there will be some scepticism about how he’ll get on back in England, as well as a few raised eyebrows at an asking price of at least £100m.
But the teenager has been the crown jewel for Borussia Dortmund over the last two years, not only showing he has what it takes to reach the highest level of the sport, but also that he’ll be able to do it no matter where he ends up at the end of this season.
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