It was Match Day 18 of the Bundesliga. Borussia Dortmund vs Wolfsburg was the last match of the weekend. The main talking point before the game was how BVB’s striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a team meeting the previous day and as a result was omitted from the squad. However, when the team news was announced there was a dash of excitement among the Dortmund fans. 17-year-old Jodan Sancho was named in the starting eleven to earn his first start for the Black and Yellows. Although the game against The Wolves ended in a disappointing 0-0 draw there was that reassuring joy about the fact that Dortmund, once again, has a gem in their hands- a player that will follow in the footsteps of previous exciting talents Mario Götze, Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele. Dortmund fans have seen this before and they are still excited by the prospect of a young talent who will be morphed into a world-beater during his stay at the Signal Iduna Park.
Sancho’s parents are from Trinidad and Tobago but he grew up in South London, amidst a tough neighborhood. Speaking to German newspaper BILD Sancho said “After school, I always just wanted to play football. Around me, a lot of people were doing some bad things, but I didn’t want anything to do with that.”
He joined Watford at the age of seven and moved to Manchester City in March 2015 to join their youth setup. The 2016/17 season was when Sancho made his mark for Manchester City by scoring 12 goals and providing four assists in 14 matches. He also scored two goals in the UEFA Youth League.
He then transformed his club form to the national team. He netted six goals for the U16s and notched 13 goals and seven assists in 16 matches for the U17s. Sancho was named Player of the Tournament in the UEFA EURO 2017 after helping his side reach the final by scoring and assisting five goals each. Previous winners of the accolade include Mario Götze, Toni Kroos, Cesc Fabregas and Wayne Rooney.
In the summer of 2017, Sancho was not included in Manchester City’s pre-season squad. That eventually led to his move away from the Citizens in search of regular first-team football. There were plenty of clubs that were interested in the youngster, including Arsenal and Tottenham, but he chose Borussia Dortmund as his new home.
In the first half of the season, Sancho was able to play regularly for BVB’s U23 team. He then took part in the U17 World Cup in Kolkata. Although he was recalled by his club in the middle of the tournament and as a result wasn’t there to lift the trophy with his teammates, he still made an impact in the games he played in, one of which was scoring a brace against Chile.
After impressing in the friendly games during the winter-break he now has two Bundesliga starts. He became the first English man to play for Borussia Dortmund when he faced Wolfsburg. In his second start against Hertha Berlin, he grabbed his first assist to help BVB secure an away draw.
Sancho’s best quality is his ability to beat defenders with his pace and dribbling. He has the awareness to find space between defensive lines and his willingness to track back and recover possession is exemplary. Understandably, the 17-year-old is not the finished book rather a work in progress. The youngster needs to improve the quality and range of his passing. He also needs to make better decisions in the final third, which was clearly apparent in the game against Hertha. In the 35th minute, he squared a ball in the penalty box when he should have taken the shot and he was unable to curl the ball into the back of the net in the 82nd minute. Those are attributes that he will eventually be able to develop during his stay in Dortmund.
In the meantime, his decision to join a club that values young talents is paying off. Unlike his peers, who usually get passed on with loan deals and rarely get first team football with their parent clubs, Sancho is enjoying minutes in Germany’s second-biggest club. Alongside players like Alexander Isak, who is also another youngster getting minutes, and the likes of Götze and Pulisic – who passed through the same path- Sancho will keep learning and developing.
England has its own crown jewel, a player with incredible talent getting a taste of first-team football at such a young age. You can’t help but get excited about Sancho’s progress. Speaking to the Financial Times Borussia Dortmund’s Sporting Director Michael Zorc said “We try to find these extraordinary players when they are not at their peak. We develop them and then, at some time, we know that they will go.” It looks like they have found a huge talent in Sancho. And this is just the beginning of what promises to be an illustrious career.
Writer: Brook Genene/@brookge
Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images