When Borussia Dortmund and England’s Jadon Sancho is the subject of discussion, what started with a whisper among Bundesliga aficionados has swiftly become one of the most lively conversations in world football.
Wherever you go, Sancho is the footballing talk of the town. Were Time magazine to extend their nomination of Person of the Year to footballers, the 18-year-old would surely be up on the podium. 2018 was a year in which Dortmund and England’s new wing wizard became one of the greatest influences and authorities of the game.
“Jadon Sancho is definitely one of the most exciting players in Europe,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc after extending his contract through to 2022. “This contract extension is the result of his excellent development.”
That development skyrocketed after he joined Dortmund from Manchester City, in search of first-team football opportunities that the Bundesliga is able to offer. He made 12 appearances towards the tail-end of last term, and it became immediately evident that he was heading for stardom.
If providing an assist every 173 minutes in his first season in the Bundesliga was not impressive enough, Sancho has raised the bar that little bit higher this season.
His nine assists this term have come at a rate of one every 113 minutes, while his goalscoring statistics – his sixth of the season setting Dortmund on their way to glory in the battle of the Borussias – illustrate a strike rate of one every 170 minutes. Many an established Bundesliga goalscoring great would be envious of such figures.
Of players born since the turn of the millennium, nobody can hold a candle to Sancho’s record of scoring or assisting 13 goals in all competitions this season. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that he only sniffed England’s U19s and skipped the U21s entirely on his way to a full senior debut for the Three Lions this year.
After being voted the player of the tournament at 2017’s UEFA European U17 Championship, he went on to lift the FIFA U17 World Cup last October as his star ascended. He was recalled by Dortmund midway through that tournament to take his Bundesliga bow, and he has not looked back since.
“I’m so happy that I chose to come to Dortmund a year ago,” said Sancho after committing his future to them earlier this year. “Everything I was hoping for has come true: this city loves football like no other, and at BVB young players get regular playing time. I can really make outstanding progress here. I’m happy, delighted and proud to be part of this team. We’re building something amazing.”
That progress can also be measured in Sancho’s worth. According to the CIES Football Observatory, his market value has increased by over 800% in the blink of an eye, and with every goal and assist that he is providing, a nine-figure sum could very soon be required to secure one of the hottest commodities in the game – not that he or Dortmund would listen.
“He reminds me a bit of Ousmane Dembele,” added Zorc, who witnessed the French midfielder’s own meteoric rise in a black and yellow shirt, which culminated in a €105 million move to Barcelona where, however, he has struggled to deliver the same kind of goods he was providing week in, week out in Westphalia.
Sancho will not tread the same path.
“I’m not wasting any thoughts on a change,” he said of inevitable transfer speculation. “I owe a lot to BVB and I have a lot planned with this team. I’m happy here and did not sign for so long for nothing.”
Those plans include winning silverware, as a prominent member of a resurgent Dortmund side who picked up the Herbstmeisterschaft in unbeaten style and bounced back from their only defeat of the season so far by beating their nearest challengers Borussia Mönchengladbach on Friday night to stretch their lead at the top of the table once again.
That success could be more than just a first Bundesliga title since 2012, however. “We just have to keep working hard and focus on the next game, and if we keep on doing this we’ve got a good chance of winning the league or – who knows? – the Champions League,” Sancho said after inspiring Dortmund to victory over Bayern Munich in a Klassiker encounter which perhaps marked his definite arrival on the biggest stage.
Sancho has supplied two goals and three assists in the six games since that win, and he has started five of those. The exception? You guessed it: Dortmund’s only defeat of the season in Düsseldorf, when he came on only for the final 29 minutes and helped Paco Alcacer slice the hosts’ lead in half, even if an equaliser remained elusive.
That just goes to show how important an element Sancho has become in Favre’s Dortmund, and reinforces where he already stands in world football, as one of the outstanding talents of our day.