Borussia Dortmund v PSG: Jadon Sancho's future analysed (2024)

Borussia Dortmund v PSG: Jadon Sancho's future analysed (1)Image source, Getty Images

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Jadon Sancho reached a significant milestone with his goal for Borussia Dortmund against RB Leipzig at the weekend.

It meant he overtook Tony Woodco*ck as the most prolific Englishman to play in the Bundesliga.

Given Harry Kane has already scored 35 league goals for Bayern Munich this season, Sancho’s new record mark of 40 is not going to last long.

However, the fact he has achieved it says a lot about his productivity levels for Dortmund.

Sancho’s three goals in 16 appearances in his second spell at the club, on loan, is an improvement on the 12 in 82 he managed at Manchester United.

By common consent, Sancho is yet to reach the same levels since his return to the club that prompted United to pay £73m for the 24-year-old in 2021. But he is more content.

When Sancho walked back into the club’s training ground and said "it’s like coming home", they were not just words. It is something the England international feels, as if a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.

English representation in the Champions League semi-finals has focused on the Kane-Jude Bellingham battle.

However, Sancho, having not featured in United’s dreadful campaign that ended with group stage elimination at the hands of Bayern and FC Copenhagen, also finds himself attempting to follow Steve McManaman for Real Madrid in 2002 as the last Englishman to play in the Champions League final for an overseas club.

Dortmund host French champions Paris St-Germain on Wednesday in the first leg of their semi-final, hoping to reach the final for the first time since 2013.

Strained relationships at United, at home in Dortmund

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Sancho’s media engagements have been strictly limited since his return to Germany.

Requests for interviews tend to be rejected because he is still a United player. More likely it is because of what triggered his United exit.

Upon hearing after a defeat at Arsenal in September that Erik ten Hag said Sancho had been left out of his matchday squad due to his performances in training, the winger hit back on social media.

He claimed he was being made "a scapegoat" by his manager. “Please don’t believe everything you read,” he added. “I will not allow people to say things that are completely untrue.”

Ten Hag demanded an apology. While the social media post came down, the apology never followed.

Asked to reflect on Sancho reaching the Champions League semi-finals following their last eight win over Atletico Madrid, Ten Hag declared: “We know Jadon Sancho is a fantastic footballer, that is not a surprise for us. That is not the issue.”

Yet the idea this reflects badly on Sancho’s personality does not stack up.

He is popular in the Dortmund dressing room. Away from the pitch he is courteous, friendly and generous with his time, as evidenced by a recent chance meeting at a local hotel with a family he knew from Dortmund the first time round.

Sancho was delighted to see the family again. He remembered who they were, even the stepson, who was only visiting Germany from his current base in Brazil.

The experience was genuine. The hugs that accompanied the greeting were warm and genuine. Sancho gave the impression of being in an environment he feels comfortable with. The perception of him being awkward and stubborn does not match the reality.

High demands at Dortmund

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Speaking to in-house media after scoring what turned out to be the winner in a 2-1 success at Werder Bremen on 9 March, Sancho says he knows the demands on him are high.

“There is always going to be pressure,” he said. “Because of what I did last time at BVB – a goal and assist every game - I can understand the fans expect a lot from me. I expect a lot from myself.

“I don’t blame them if they are mad at me if I don’t score or contribute. That is what I expect from myself.

“They trust me and I am really thankful they gave me the opportunity week in, week out to show what I can do.”

Given 20 weeks passed between Sancho's 30-minute appearance for United against Nottingham Forest in August and his second Dortmund debut, at Darmstadt on 13 January, it is not a surprise Sancho has found it difficult to get into the rhythm that would allow him to recreate the regular match-winning contributions from his first spell at the club.

Dortmund coach Edin Terzic said before the Leipzig defeat that Sancho was "not yet at the peak of his performance".

“But we know that he can reach this maximum very quickly,” Terzic added. “He has an extraordinary talent and is a lot of fun for us.”

Respected football writer Cedric Gebhardt, who covers Dortmund for the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper agrees Sancho is not at the levels of his first stint.

“He lacks the ease and confidence of his first spell at BVB,” says Gebhardt. “He doesn’t dribble as often and he also lacks pace and loses the ball too often.”

What does the future hold?

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What does the future hold?

Most fans are happy Sancho returned.

“We have had several players come back over the years but usually, it didn’t go very well,” says Nina Tillmann, of the popular Dortmund fans’ site.

“But I thought this one was a good idea. I feel Jadon is at home with us and could help the club.

“It would be a shame if he didn’t get back to his old self. It would be beautiful if he had the chance to shine again here.”

Whether it happens is a matter of debate.

In an ideal world, Dortmund would keep the player. That is what senior officials at the club want. But the deal that brought Sancho back, financially, made sense.

For the loan to be repeated next season, or turned into a permanent transfer, it would require significant compromise on all sides. Dortmund simply cannot match the salary Sancho gets at United. But United, under severe pressure to comply with the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability rules, cannot just hand over an asset of that size.

It is clear there is no future for Sancho at Old Trafford if Ten Hag remains as manager. But he may not, which opens up the possibility of a return to United even if the feeling persists he will be playing elsewhere next season.

In the meantime, Dortmund have a Champions League semi-final in front of them.

They may be outsiders but having won a group containing PSG, AC Milan and Newcastle before eliminating Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals, Dortmund should not be written off.

Ironically, lifting the trophy, which the club won in 1997 with a team that included former Scotland midfielder Paul Lambert, would provide prize money that could be used to bring Sancho back.

It is a fascinating subplot to a strange story.

When Sancho left Dortmund, winning the Champions League was one of his aims. Little did he know, his first decent shot at the prize would be right back where his senior professional career began.

Related Topics

  • Borussia Dortmund
  • Manchester United
  • European Football
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Borussia Dortmund v PSG: Jadon Sancho's future analysed (2024)


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