How good is Borussia Dortmund starlet Jadon Sancho?
Marco Reus never believed an 18-year-old could possess such footballing brains as Jadon Sancho. The Englishman scored and assisted two other goals in Borussia Dortmund’s 3-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday to his senior German colleague's amazement.
I wasn't that far at his age. How he controls the ball to set up the 3-0, that shows everything. I wasn't that far at his age. So much respect!
The club’s Sporting Director Michael Zorc echoed Reus' sentiment, saying "Jadon was just outstanding for an 18-year-old." With all the plaudits coming his way, the question becomes just how good is the former Manchester City youth player?
Journey to Dortmund
Sancho arrived in Dortmund last summer with a massive weight on his shoulders. Still reeling over Ousmane Dembele’s Barcelona switch, the faithful were hoping for an accomplished figure rather than a teenager about to be offered a maiden professional contract. Especially one without any first-team experience whatsoever.
Sancho was highly regarded in England. At 15, he shot his way to prominence, netting 15 goals and providing four assists in the 2015/16 season. His progress continued with the City reserves scoring five times the following year. Still, there were no assurances for his future at the Etihad.
Further evidence of his burgeoning talent came for England. After six goals for the U16s, Sancho then notched 13 in 16 matches for the U17s, providing seven assists as well. He was key to the team's progress to the Euro final in Croatia. England lost on penalties by Spain but Sancho was named the tournament's top player.
It didn't matter. To BVB fans, he was nothing more than an untapped, untested, and unfledged talent. Their opinion was somewhat justified during his first six months. Sancho rarely came close the first team. Christian Pulisic, Andre Schürrle, Shinji Kagawa, Andrey Yarmolenko, and Reus all barred his way. He garnered just 16 minutes of football in that span.
However, that notion was dispelled immediately after Peter Stoger took charge. Sancho started for the first time against Wolfsburg in January. Although not fruitful in front of goal, he nevertheless impressed with his industry and direct running. Since then he's featured five more times, scoring at a rate of one per game, an injury spell the only thing hindering his progress. He is now the youngest Englishman to score in the Bundesliga.
How good is Sancho?
In his short career, Sancho has shown a knack for hitting the target even though he operates primarily on the flanks. Naturally right-footed, he prefers to play on the left side of a front three. According to the player himself, his main strength is in 1v1’s. His pace and close control allow him to take advantage in isolated duels with defenders.
Sancho’s exceptional dribbling skills and quick feet make him a nightmare for full-backs to track. After a tough opening 20 minutes, most will back off, but he’s still able to knock it past players and burst into space. He’s particularly good when coming inside. His dribbling style is rather curious. He plays with a straight back, his head up, looming over the ball with all his height even when taking on players.
Let's give Stoger the final word:
Sancho is a really good lad but not the finished article just yet. But if he continues developing the way he is, recognising situations properly, then he’s got a great future ahead of him.