LONDON: England winger Jadon Sancho is returning to English football after Manchester United agreed a £73m fee for the 21-year-old who is with the national team preparing for Saturday’s Euro 2020 quarter-final against Ukraine in Rome.
Sancho moved to the Bundesliga after the 2017 European Under-17 Championship, where he was player of the tournament as England reached the final.
Sancho’s camp felt the teenager was capable of more than was being offered by the new contract presented to him by Manchester City. A £30,000 weekly salary was evidence of City’s hopes for Sancho but, as proved to be the case with Phil Foden, manager Pep Guardiola felt gradual exposure to the first team was the best way forward.
Sancho did not want to wait. And Dortmund offered him an opportunity.
Twelfth in the Forbes list of the world’s richest clubs, they are still, financially, a long way behind Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich.
Attracting youth is a way of bridging the gap. When they pitch to youngsters, they show off their teamsheet. Last season that included Sancho, Erling Braut Haaland, Jude Bellingham and Gio Reyna. Haaland is 20, Bellingham and Reyna just 18.
“It is obvious,” said Sancho, when asked in a 2019 interview why he joined Dortmund. “They play a lot of young players. They have faith in young players.
“It is a big club, in a good league, so why not?”
Sancho’s reasoning was sound – and the outcome justifies him snubbing City’s contract offer, and the brief time he spent refusing to train at City as his path away was plotted.
But there was an unexpected spin-off, which Sancho can no longer be shielded from.
There is no doubting his popularity in the Dortmund squad. Images of him dancing on the table, leading the celebrations after their German Cup final victory – the only significant honour during his time at the club – show a young man happy in his surroundings, and with his team-mates.
Sancho scored twice in the 4-1 hammering of RB Leipzig so he had every reason to be pleased. However, those scenes largely went unnoticed in England. For most, analysis of Sancho’s career has been through periodic reminders of goals or assists.
Given he has never been particularly comfortable in the spotlight or doing media, that suited him just fine.
“Dortmund is very quiet,” said Sancho. “London is busier. Dortmund is very chilled, but I like this because I can relax.”
In returning to England, the option of operating under the radar is no longer there.