Jadon Sancho’s chance to redeem season and ghosts of Wembley | Football News - Hindustan Times
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Jadon Sancho’s chance to redeem season and ghosts of Wembley

ByDhiman Sarkar
Jun 01, 2024 05:40 AM IST

Frozen at Manchester United, he has flourished at Dortmund and can play the Champions League final t a venue where he missed a penalty in the final of the Euros

In 2017, he sparkled in the under-17 World Cup before Borussia Dortmund called him back after the group stage, much to Kolkata’s and England coach Steve Cooper’s disappointment. England won that World Cup without Sancho but soon he was playing for the senior team and on way to becoming a star in Bundesliga.

By joining Dortmund instead of staying on at Manchester City, whose academy he had joined from Watford, like his England teammate Phil Foden, Sancho had even become a trendsetter of sorts.(AFP)
By joining Dortmund instead of staying on at Manchester City, whose academy he had joined from Watford, like his England teammate Phil Foden, Sancho had even become a trendsetter of sorts.(AFP)

There was talk of him being mentally strong – Sancho had trained and played in the week his grandmother died and was praised for it by then skipper Marco Reus.

By joining Dortmund instead of staying on at Manchester City, whose academy he had joined from Watford, like his England teammate Phil Foden, Sancho had even become a trendsetter of sorts. Mason Mount and Ademola Lookman were among those who had walked Sancho’s path. In an interview to FourFourTwo in 2019, Sancho had explained why he joined Borussia Dortmund.

“Youngsters get opportunities. You have got to thank Borussia Dortmund because it is unheard for a team that gets 80,000 fans at every home game to put so much faith in youngsters,” said Sancho, 24.

Sancho aggregated 50 goals and 64 assists in 137 games for Borussia Dortmund. He also won the German Cup. In short, life was good. So good that Manchester United came calling with an €85m offer, one that Dortmund could not refuse. Given that Erling Haaland, Ousmane Dembele, Robert Lewandowski and Jude Bellingham, among others, have used Dortmund as a finishing school, that sale was not unusual. In fact, it felt like a win-win for both.

And that’s when things started to slip sliding away. Manchester United did not and do not have the attacking structure Sancho was used to at Dortmund. They also went through a churn of managers and Sancho had a fallout with the man still in charge of the team, Erik ten Hag. It led to him being frozen out till Dortmund, at the initiative of sporting director and former Germany player Sebastian Kehl, welcomed him back on loan.

"It was not an easy situation in January to bring Jadon to Dortmund," Kehl told reporters on Tuesday. "But we knew Jadon had the skills to perform, to be decisive and to bring us to another level. Jadon is such a great person, a great player, and the experience he had in Manchester helped him to perform now.”

Sancho had an assist each in his first two games for Dortmund and scored thrice in 14 Bundesliga games. He also scored against PSV in the Champions League. Two goals and three assists in 14 games in the league and one goal in the Champions League do not great numbers make but considering he wasn’t training with the first team at Manchester United for months, it is creditable.

It was against Paris St Germain in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final that Sancho was in his element. He finished 12 dribbles, the most in a Champions League semi-final since Lionel Messi in 2008. That alone tells a story but Sancho’s defensive shift to help right back Julian Ryerson was just as commendable. It made for a full package.

One that has got him a chance to play the Champions League final, a possibility not worthy of considering even a few months ago. “To be fair, it felt surreal. Again, it still hasn’t hit me," Sancho told CNN on Thursday. "It’s kind of crazy, you know, I don’t think anyone would have expected this – me being in the Champions League final, especially where I came from? I’m just happy.”

The focus on Saturday will be on the farewell of Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos and Dortmund’s Marco Reus. There will be the business of Dortmund seeking a better end than the 1-2 defeat to Bayern Munich they had in 2013, the only other time they played a Champions League final at Wembley. From that squad, only Reus and Mats Hummels remain.

It will also be a redemption opportunity for Sancho. It was at Wembley that he had missed a penalty in the tie-breaker as England failed to hold on to an early lead and lost to Italy in the final of the 2021 European championship. Gareth Southgate was not convinced by his form at Dortmund to include him in the long list for next month’s Euros. A good performance on Saturday could show Manchester United and England that Sancho’s best years are ahead of him.

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