Jadon Sancho is an exceptional talent and that’s why he will be courted by the very biggest clubs in Europe if, as seems increasingly likely, he looks to leave Borussia Dortmund next summer.
At the age of 17 he quit Manchester City and moved to Germany in an attempt to accelerate his development. It worked: just over two years on, he is Dortmund’s star player and has proven he can affect high-stakes matches in the Bundesliga and Champions League.
Making that move took self-confidence and showed that Sancho is willing to be nomadic. As a 14-year-old, the south Londoner had already upped sticks from Watford to join City’s academy.
My career followed a similar pattern in that I left Burnley for Everton as a teenager. But not all players are the same. His former team-mate Phil Foden is City through and through; that’s his club and he has stayed patient while Sancho has flourished elsewhere.
Dortmund deserve credit for their handling of Sancho in his first season, using him sparingly while he adapted to a new environment and culture.
This season, however, things appear to have soured. The club are having a difficult season and for some reason he has taken some criticism – perhaps, partly at least, because so much is expected of him now.
In that respect it was good to see him end a seven-game barren spell with a goal and an assist at the weekend.
Sancho, however, has reached a point where he may wonder whether Dortmund are big enough for him any more. And the answer is: probably not.
Players like him want to see if they can be the very best. They want that Cristiano Ronaldo career. But fulfilling that ambition depends on which club you are at.
Is Sancho as good as Ronaldo was at 19? I think he’s better. Ronaldo was still a stepover merchant, but the England forward is more mature and a better team player.
By next summer, when he will likely also star at Euro 2020, he will have played 25 per cent of his career already. He will have huge money thrown at him and big decisions to make.
Bernabeu or the Bridge?
Returning to England would be a walk in the park. On the other hand, he has shown he has the maturity to make a success of moving to another country – like Spain, where Barcelona and Real Madrid are said to be interested.
With Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, Barca look to be well stocked in the forward positions, but I could definitely envisage Sancho replacing Gareth Bale in Madrid.
Of his reported Premier League suitors, Manchester United don’t look like being competitive soon, he has history with City and, although Jurgen Klopp would be a big draw at Liverpool, I wonder whether Sancho would want to return to the north-west so soon.
A better fit might be Chelsea. They won’t lift the title this year but they are recent Champions League winners, are getting stronger and will be looking to close the gap to Liverpool next year.
Something exciting is happening under Frank Lampard, while the advancing years of Willian and Pedro should open up space for a player like boyhood Blues fan Sancho.
Returning home to London to a team on the up would tempt me if I was him. And if Madrid is still appeals, he would probably still have the option of following Eden Hazard and making the move later in his career.