Expect an exodus to the Bundesliga in the wake of Jadon Sancho’s first Champions League goal
Between about 2006 and 2018, English football was looking enviously at the systems Germany had put in place to develop its talent; systems that reached their pinnacle with the 2014 World Cup victory.
Lately, it has become a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ for some of English football’s biggest talents.
Former Manchester City player Jadon Sancho scored his first Champions League goal after coming on as a substitute for Borussia Dortmund in last night’s win over Atletico Madrid.
Jadon Sancho casually scoring against the brick wall that is Atletico Madrid just four mins after coming on as a sub.
His first ever Champions League goal 😎 pic.twitter.com/S4fGqzXMNz
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 24, 2018
The 18-year-old has also clocked up more than 20 first-team appearances and won his first England cap since opting to quit life on the Premier League fringes in August 2017.
Footballers love a good trend to follow, and Sancho’s ability to make an impact at European football’s highest level at such a young age is sure to have more English youngsters wondering if knocking around in Premier League 2 and waiting for the occasional League Cup appearance is all it’s cracked up to be.
Arsenal starlet Reiss Nelson is currently tearing it up on loan at Hoffenheim, while Everton’s Ademola Lookman impressed at RB Leipzig last season. Reece Oxford, of West Ham United, was well thought of by Borussia Monchengladbach following his loan spell, while Mandela Egbo left Crystal Palace in 2015 to join Borussia.
But it is Sancho’s efforts that are likely to shake things up even more. He was part of the England Under-20 squad that won the World Cup last year. Nobody else in the squad has made anything like the same impact since. Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster, Manchester United’s Angel Gomes and Chelsea’s George McEachran are among those who might allow their minds to drift to think about how many more opportunities they might have been afforded by now if they were playing in the Bundesliga.
Making a mark in a rival domestic league is impressive enough, but if Sancho can now start to make headlines in the Champions League – while also blazing the trail to the England senior squad – that might be decisive in encouraging more English youngsters to try their luck abroad and, given the aforementioned fondness of following a trend, probably in Germany.
Big contracts, nice cars and the cosy environment of a top Premier League club have long been touted as reasons why young English players overstay at the clubs that developed them and miss out on crucial first-team experience. There are countless examples of talented teenagers who plodded along in the reserves of a big club or dabbled in a succession of loan moves only to find that, when they were forced to move on permanently in their early 20s, they have fallen behind their contemporaries.
Plenty has been written about how the big clubs’ stockpiling of talent often does little for the players, and it is no secret that the onus is on the players to make their own opportunities. Sancho’s story is likely to serve as encouragement to take a gamble.
The Under-20 World Cup winners are going to start turning 19 from January. Come the end of the current season, if Sancho continues at his current rate, there is likely to be several other English prospects questioning the best route for their careers.