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OPINION | Jadon Sancho’s case for centrepiece of Dortmund’s future is built on more than just numbers

Borussia Dortmund’s fall from the paragon of footballing sustainability has been rapid and for those with an affinity for the club, heartbreaking. Lucien Favre will take charge, looking to restore what Dortmund have lost in recent years, but steadying the ship may be more difficult than hoped.

Thomas Tuchel, Peter Bosz, and Peter Stöger have all tried to fill the shoes left by Jürgen Klopp and while each has had their respective highs, the lows have been more than telling for Borussia Dortmund.

Tuchel clashed with then-Dortmund chief scout Sven Mislintat, as well as CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, before leaving amidst a storm of anger and controversy. Bosz, engineer of Ajax’s incredible European run the year before, saw a dream start take on a more nightmarish look as the season went on, eventually leaving by the turn of the new year; before Stöger, tasked only with patching the holes left by Bosz, did his job, but it came as no surprise when he vacated his post at the season’s close.

The surprise only comes when looking at the effect these departures have had on Dortmund — a club at which the machine itself is far more important than the cogs operating within it.

For the first time since Klopp’s arrival, Dortmund have finished outside of the top two in consecutive seasons and due to the emergence of sides like RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim, they may not regain their spot behind Bayern Munich so soon.

Dortmund have had a revolving door policy of late while shake-ups in positions above only darken the clouds, but in the face of constant managerial and hierarchal instability, die Schwarzgelben have an anchor, someone who they can create a team around.

He’s 18-years-old, yet to make 10 starts for Dortmund and has been a member of the team for less than a year.

Jadon Sancho , however, is an asset to Dortmund because of that inexperience, not in spite of it. The rawness that limited Sancho to a few substitute appearances dotted with starts is the same rawness that will keep him in Germany until he’s simply too good to stay.

Dortmund will take care not to wait too long, though. The Englishman made it clear his move from Manchester City to Dortmund was for more than just a change of scenery.

Following a winter trip to Spain, marked by two impressive displays in friendlies against Fortuna Düsseldorf and Zulte Waregem, manager Stöger felt Sancho was ready and handed him three consecutive starts. The London-native wasted little time on paying back the faith, bagging an assist in a 1–1 draw away to Hertha Berlin, before later collecting the Bundesliga Rookie of the Month award for his contributions.

Despite that, the best was somehow yet to come for Sancho, as he went on to finish his debut Bundesliga campaign averaging a goal contribution every 137 minutes.

But while statistics do add a degree of corporeality to an otherwise scant footballing résumé, Sancho’s case for centrepiece of Dortmund’s future is built on more than just numbers.

What Sancho offers that most in his country or even continent — let alone club —  can’t isn’t to be read off of a spreadsheet or watched on YouTube in over-edited compilations, it’s more than that.

It’s the combination of youth with the pitch-presence of a tested professional, the never over-dribbling when it’d be all too easy for him, the insistence on having the ball but the willingness to give it up, even the fact he remains out of trouble and down-to-earth in an era which excuses youth for mistakes they’ve yet to make.

So, of course, Dortmund can come out of this transfer window with a squad bolstered by any and all Favre has asked for, or they can look closer to home, and begin to build around their own star-to-be.

Until then, Sancho can and will be celebrated for breaking every youth and/or Englishman abroad related record he’s able to. But at 18-years-old, looking towards his second season as a true professional, how far Sancho takes the club is only a question of Dortmund’s faith in him.

M.H.

 

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