England′s Jadon Sancho continues battle for domestic recognition | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 03.07.2021
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England's Jadon Sancho continues battle for domestic recognition

Jadon Sancho capped off a career-defining week by helping England reach the Euro 2020 semifinals. Manchester-bound in the summer, Sancho’s talents may finally receive the recognition they deserve domestically.

Jadon Sancho against Ukraine

Jadon Sancho featured in England's starting line-up for the first time at Euro 2020 against Ukraine

Urkaine 0-4 England Rome
(Kane 4', 50', Maguire 46', Henderson 63')

Despite featuring for just six minutes in England’s first four games at Euro 2020, Jadon Sancho was one of the most talked about players at the tournament. 

Head coach Gareth Southgate fielded questions about his absence from England’s starting lineups, while Three Lions’ fans debated his merits. On Saturday against Ukraine, the 21-year-old was afforded the chance to provide an answer of his own. 

At the end of a career-defining week, though, his first start at Euro 2020 didn’t produce a riposte as emphatic as England’s 4-0 win. It was nevertheless another small step towards gaining  recognition at home.

Jordan Henderson scores for England

Jordan Henderson's first England goal wrapped up a 4-0 win against Ukraine.

Returning to Manchester

At present, "it’s coming home" is the catchphrase on the lips of all England fans. Whether the Three Lions are crowned champions of Europe this summer or not, Sancho certainly will be.

Courted by Manchester United since 2020, the protracted transfer saga was finally put to bed on Thursday when the club announced that they had reached an agreement to sign the Borussia Dortmund winger for €85 million, subject to a medical.

A big win for Dortmund as a publicly traded club. A big loss for Dortmund as a football club. 

"We are not excited about the money," said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. "Instead, we are sad he is leaving. At the end of the day, it was Jadon’s express wish to leave. We would have preferred to keep him here." 

Breaking barriers abroad

Sancho is a player who operates with a guile and joy on the ball that his idol Ronaldinho would be proud of. At times a walking highlight reel, at others a match winner in big moments and occasionally a frustrating character in an underperforming Dortmund side. 

His record of 50 goals and 64 assists in 137 appearances for the Bundesliga side speaks for itself. Sancho broke league records in Germany, but more importantly broke down barriers in a way that his predecessors never did. 

From Kevin Keegan or David Beckham, the old trend saw English players only move abroad once they had made their names domestically. Sancho’s story is one many have followed because he took the risk of snubbing Manchester City and chose to go abroad to make his name. 

Jadon Sancho celebrates scoring

Jadon Sancho had a hand in 114 goals in 137 appearances for Dortmund in all competitions

In doing so he forged a path as rewarding as one of his trademark mazy runs at the heart of Bundesliga back lines. One already followed by soon-to-be former Dortmund teammate Jude Bellingham. 

Yet the narrative of Sancho’s story is still tinged with domestic bias. Southgate’s decision to cast aside the 21-year-old only added fuel to the fire of an argument that has long seen the value of elite performances at the highest level of German football undercut by the "farmer’s league" label. 

While the likes of Phil Foden and Jack Grealish were lauded for their performances in the Premier League, the sense that Sancho needed to return home to improve his standing in the Three Lions setup was amplified.

Breakout still pending

Given the chance to stake a claim for a semifinal starting berth on Saturday, Sancho didn’t enhance his chances. There were sharp touches, neat angles and one clean sight of goal, but his performance didn’t hit the spell-binding heights Borussia Dortmund fans have become accustomed to.  

"I’m very satisfied [with my first start at Euro 2020]," Sancho told German broadcaster ARD after the game. "I’m always happy to help the team and be able to play for my country. It was a very important win for us and I’m happy to be a part of that." 

"We knew opportunities would come and knew they’d tire out. The wingers created space and I’m happy that Harry Kane scored two. It would be a nice feeling [to start the semifinal in Wembley], but I don’t make the decisions. I’ve been working hard in training and I was happy to get my opportunity tonight."

While Euro 2020 hasn’t been the breakout tournament for him many expected it be, Sancho’s stock will rise when he features for Manchester United in the Premier League next season. Maybe then fans in England will truly understand what fans in Germany have long known.

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