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Jadon Sancho is the player England has and Germany wants

March 22, 2019

A goal eluded Jadon Sancho on his first competitive start for England at Wembley on Friday night, but the Borussia Dortmund forward nevertheless showed why he is in such demand - at home and abroad.

UEFA Euro 2020-Qualifikation - Gruppe A - England - Tschechische Republik
Image: picture-alliance/M. Pain

Jadon Sancho had two Czech defenders to beat at Wembley. After nutmegging the first, he was knocked off balance. But he recovered, regained possession and quickly flicked the ball through the legs of the second, as if in retaliation, winning a corner for England.

Many a Bundesliga defender this season will know exactly how Filip Novak and David Pavelka felt, the two hapless Czechs whose blood had been twisted by the teenager from London who has made a name for himself at Borussia Dortmund.

Nineteen months, ten goals, 21 assists and countless dribbles on from his decision to walk away from Pep Guardiola in August 2017, Sancho is a regular starter with the joint Bundesliga leaders. His performances have earned him a player of the month award in Germany and a call-up for England.

Dortmund last year extended his contract until 2022 in an attempt to stave off mega bids from the Premier League such as the one allegedly being prepared by Manchester United, who are reportedly ready to offer €90m ($100m) for the 18-year-old. A poorly-timed and quickly-deleted Twitter retweet has only fueled speculation.

Sancho is now hot property in two countries. He's the sort of player which England have and which Germany want. After World Cup humiliation, Nations League relegation and the Bundesliga clubs' Champions League elimination, the inquest into a dismal football year for Germany is in full flow.

UEFA Euro 2020-Qualifikation - Gruppe A - England - Tschechische Republik
Jadon Sancho's performances in Germany have caught the eye of England coach Gareth SouthgateImage: picture-alliance/S. Paston

And the conclusion most widely agreed upon so far is that, while the country's famed academy system has produced dozens of technically perfect and tactically shrewd young footballers, Germany lacks players with a "street football mentality."

"A uniform type of technically fine passers have been cultivated in the academies but the penetration in one-on-ones has gone missing," wrote respected football magazine Kicker this week, reporting on Germany assistant manager Oliver Bierhoff's plans to improve youth development. It's hard not to imagine Sancho being in his head. 

"German football must be careful not to get left behind," said former Germany and Arsenal defender Per Mertersacker. "England, France, Belgium and others are ahead of us in this sort of training," added national team coach Joachim Löw.

While Löw now wants to build his latest, and probably last, Germany team around Leroy Sané, his English counterpart Gareth Southgate has Raheem Sterling and Sancho, who lined-up either side of Harry Kane against the Czech Republic on Friday night.

UEFA Euro 2020-Qualifikation - Gruppe A - England - Tschechische Republik
Sancho gave Czech defender Filip Novak a tough time on Friday night.Image: picture-alliance/N. Potts

The outstanding Sterling will rightly grab the headlines after his hat-trick in England's 5-0 win, but Sancho will also be more than satisfied with his role in first competitive start for his country.

Shortly before his blood-twisting dribble, it was his first-time ball across the box which Sterling tapped home for England's first. He was also involved in the build-up to the fifth, injecting pace into the attack and combinging with Bayern Munich target Callum Hudson-Odoi.

And Sancho himself could have been on the scoresheet too in the second half were it not from a last-ditch block from Novak, clearly determined not to let Sancho have it all his own way.

"He didn't want to accept the challenge," Guardiola said recently of Sancho's decision to quit Manchester City. Far from it; the challenge has been well and truly accepted.