Is Jadon Sancho hinting at a Borussia Dortmund return?

Manchester United’s Jadon Sancho misses out on the club’s trip to Spain this week and in Germany, reports suggest the under-fire winger could be a reinforcement for Borussia Dortmund.

Sancho joined Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund to much fanfare. However, the €85m signing has struggled to come anywhere close to replicating the form he displayed in the Bundesliga since his move in 2021.

The London-born attacker has shone in glimpses, against Liverpool where he scored the winning goal and against Leicester City this season. With just 10 Premier League games this season, Sancho is again struggling and crucially was left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

And now, Sancho has been left out of the Manchester United squad which is travelling to Spain. Instead, he will undergo an individual training regime.

United confirmed this in a statement: “The Reds will prepare for the resumption of the domestic campaign later this month by playing two friendlies, away to La Liga sides Cadiz and Real Betis. Jadon Sancho is continuing his training programme as part of a process to get back to his highest level. The club is fully supporting him in this.”

Sancho has been out for one month so far this season and the individual training programme is undoubtedly intended to get Sancho match-fit but is there more to the England international being left out of Manchester United’s squad for the Spain trip?

Since losing Sancho in the summer of 2021, the wide areas, in particular the right side, has been a key area of weakness for Borussia Dortmund. Karim Adeyemi has been injured for two months and is yet to make his mark and Jamie Bynoe-Gittens has made just four appearances this season. Thorgan Hazard mainly features from the bench and has not been able to return to form so far, whilst Marius Wolf has played most of his games in defence. The addition of a winger, such as Sancho, would also free up Julian Brandt, who makes a bigger contribution in a central position.

Bringing players back for considerably less than what they got in the first place is a tactic that Dortmund has successfully implemented many times over the years. Nuri Sahin returned from Real Madrid in 2013, Shinji Kagawa was bought back from Manchester United in 2014 for €14m after selling him for €22m, Mario Götze was sold for €37m and returned from Bayern Munich in 2016 for €22m and Mats Hummels came back from Bayern in 2019 for €30m after being sold for €38m. It’s a tactic that has worked previously for BVB. Only Götze struggled to integrate upon his return, making only 75 appearances before he left for PSV in 2020.

The transfer of Sancho to Manchester United in the summer of 2021 turned into a big mistake for all parties. At Borussia Dortmund, his departure left a huge hole in the wing. Manchester United, in turn, are unhappy with his performances. The player himself, in particular after being left out of the England squad, is not settled.

An altogether unsettling situation which Ruhr24 speculates could be leading Sancho to consider a return to the Signal-Iduna-Park. Nearly two weeks ago, the 22-year-old virtually shut down his Instagram profile overnight. He deleted all his posts and blacked out his profile picture without providing any explanation.

There was a lot of speculation in the English media about the reasons. Some see it as a protest against the controversial World Cup, others a dig at national coach Southgate for not calling him up for the tournament. Still, others suggest that Sancho is taking a social media sabbatical to prepare for making a break with the “Red Devils”. The exact reason remains uncertain.

On Monday, Sancho then suddenly activated his account again. Since then, the winger has not yet posted his contributions, but his profile now provides a new mysterious detail. He left two pictures in the tagged section. Both are from his time at BVB.

One shows him celebrating a goal together with Dortmund captain Marco Reus, the other shows him with the team in front of the celebrating Yellow Wall.

The fact that Sancho leaves these two pictures, of all things, on his otherwise completely blank profile seems strange. Some BVB fans interpret this as a ‘come and get me plea’ to Dortmund.

From a sporting point of view, a transfer makes perfect sense for both sides. The ex-Dortmund player would however have to make significant financial sacrifices for a potential return. Sancho is one of the top earners at Old Trafford, earning a reported salary of €18m per season. This is three times what Sancho was earning in Dortmund.

A return to the familiar environment that made him an exceptional player could be highly attractive to the winger. United however have a contract until 2026 with an option for a further year’s extension. The transfer fee could also be prohibitive for the former Manchester City academy player.

 A winger that could be financially within BVB’s realm however is Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic. This week Bild quoted the young US international as saying he could “clearly imagine a return to Dortmund.” Pulisic has suffered mixed form since his transfer to Stamford Bridge and is believed to have been unsettled by the sudden departure of former BVB manager Thomas Tuchel in September.

He has however had a successful World Cup with the United States, who made the last 16. The speculation could be dampened however by the considerable salary reduction the Hershey-born winger, who can also play as a midfielder, would have to accept to make the transfer happen. Pulisic earns €11m per season at Chelsea which would put him amongst the top earners at BVB like Marco Reus and Niklas Süle. What should be an encouragement to BVB however is that Sports Illustrated quote an unnamed Chelsea source as saying the fee expectation for Pulisic would likely be “moderate”.

BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke this week declared that BVB is “Unlikely to be active in the transfer market in January.” The wing is a crucial area for Dortmund to reinforce, they have brought players back successfully before and both Sancho and Pulisic are well-known to Edin Terzic and would be welcomed by fans at the Signal-Iduna-Park. However as to whether the budget will be viable remains to be seen.

GGFN | Ben McFadyean

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