Jadon Sancho signed for Borussia Dortmund from Manchester City in the summer of 2017. When that transfer happened, he was 17 and had never played a first-team match. Sancho only became known after stories about the reasons for his departure emerged.
Sancho wanted a new contract and assurances that he would get game time. He was then left out of City’s squad for their pre-season tour and failed to report for training in the following days. To many, this was just another teenage upstart getting ahead of himself. Fast-forward 18 months and Sancho is one of the most talked about players in Europe. He has already scored six goals, recorded nine assists and has played in every Dortmund league match in their rise to the top of the table.
Not that long ago, Pep Guardiola was unwilling to give him vital first-team experience. It’s little wonder that Sancho sought the bright lights of Bundesliga football instead of slumming it playing in empty stadiums for City’s ‘Elite Development Squad’ (under-21s or reserves in old speak).
This week, another member of England’s World Cup-winning under-17 team is reportedly looking to join Sancho in Germany. Callum Hudson-Odoi is rumoured to be moving to Bayern Munich for what would be the most expensive transfer in Bayern’s history. Chelsea assistant manager Gianfranco Zola has urged Hudson-Odoi to stay, saying: “We believe in what he can do… I don’t think there are many 18-year-olds around Europe that are playing as much as him in a big team.”
Hudson-Odoi has played 61 minutes of league football this season and Chelsea have just signed Christian Pulisic, who coincidentally can’t get into the Dortmund team due of Sancho’s fine form. After rejecting a contract worth £85,000 a week, money isn’t what this young player wants. Chelsea have used this tactic to pacify upset players for years: offer them more cash. When it doesn’t work, they are at a loss.
England’s success at youth level is unparalleled yet very few of those players have made the first teams at their clubs. The talent is clearly there but young players do not get given a chance. Part of this is doubtless the hire-and-fire policy of many chairmen in the land and the win-at-all-costs mentality that is pervasive throughout the game. What incentive is there to try and slowly encourage talented youngsters to come through when the average tenure of a manager is so short?
Chelsea have long hindered the careers of promising footballers. They see them as an investment that can be sold on for high profits to meet their Financial Fair Play duties and to meet the quota for homegrown players. Hudson-Odoi must not become the next victim of Chelsea’s attitude to emerging talent. As long as so many clubs continue to have such a high turnover of managers unwilling to try anything new, more and more players will join Sancho and co in the bright lights of a foreign land.