Borussia Dortmund starlet Jadon Sancho has caused a lot of English teams to start worrying about their transfer policies. This is especially true at the top six clubs; as Sancho has flourished in Dortmund, Germany, lots of his U18 World Cup teammates are opening their eyes to the possibility of moving abroad. This is why Sancho has caused English clubs a big problem with youth development
Jadon Sacho is Causing English Clubs a Problem With Youth Development
Setting a Precedent
Although the 18-year-old was always an extremely hot prospect while in the Manchester City academy, it was probably unexpected that his meteoric rise would happen so rapidly. Since leaving the Etihad stadium and also since the construction of City’s new and state-of-the-art training facility was finished last year, Sancho has become commonplace in Dortmund’s starting line-up, something that even England’s most promising youngsters can only dream of.
What Happened to Sancho?
Simply put, he has been trusted. Faith has been placed in the Englishman to perform at the highest level in Germany’s top league. Subsequently, he has grown in confidence and this has shown in his performances. It is no longer news when he scores because it is accepted as his standards.
With immense raw talent, there is always the need for the correct attitude. There are countless players who have been billed to ‘make it’ and become the ‘next big thing’. However these players often get caught up in being stars from such a young age. The real challenge in football is not to get into an academy, it’s to make the next step. This doesn’t happen to everyone for multiple reasons. Players also don’t necessarily mature in the correct way and get stuck behind physically.
However, Sancho appears to be different. He was one of the first to make the risky decision to leave the comfort of playing academy-level football. It is this so-called ‘arrogance’ that elite athletes need. They breed confidence and Sancho is no different. He turned down the chance to develop under Pep Guardiola to get first team football; this is the right attitude. Sancho doesn’t see himself as a star, and so he shouldn’t; in comparison to where his raw potential could get him in football, he has achieved nothing.
Is There a Future for English Players in England?
Of course there is still a pathway for English players to develop in the Premier League. These players are far more commonplace when seen on the benches and in first team training sessions nowadays, but the next step is often the one that is proving to be the hardest.
Furthermore, if you take a step back and look at foreign talent, lots of promising young foreign stars in the English game have made their names in Germany. Thorgan Hazard at Chelsea has become at star at Borussia Mochengladbach since leaving Stamford Bridge, much like Kevin De Bruyne did when he left Chelsea for Wolfsburg. Similarly, Serge Gnabry left Arsenal to develop at Bayern Munich, despite having shown limited signs of his full potential while in England.
Often, players don’t develop as they aren’t given the opportunities. This is usually because the pressure to succeed at top clubs is so great. Therefore, managers can’t afford to take risks and play unproven talent. Also, new managers don’t want to upset the balance in a changing room and need the support and experience of older heads. It’s these players that build up the foundations for managers.
In recent years, though, there are several high-end, now international, examples of English players coming through the English systems.
Since stealing the limelight under Louis van Gaal four years ago, Marcus Rashford has become a Manchester United and England star. Being just 18 when sent on as a substitute to salvage United’s Europa League tie, Rashford never looked back. He scored two in a matter of minutes on that occasion before then netting the weekend after against Arsenal and going on to bag a goal in the Manchester Derby.
Rashford has also shown that he can play on the international stage. He has made England’s squads for the last two major tournaments and cemented his place as one of Gareth Southgate’s options leading the line.
However, Rashford was lucky in his breakthrough. Some might say everyone needs luck in their careers, and this is true, but Rashford wasn’t named on the bench the night he made his debut. If there hadn’t been an injury that night, Rashford might still be stranded in the United academy, one that has lost numerous ‘world talents’ in recent years. Rashford was on the books at United but had never made the step to even training with the first team before that night. Despite his success, it isn’t exactly the way through the system that is most likely.
Perhaps the most recent example of a successful academy product has been Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold. Another of England’s World Cup squad for last summer, Alexander-Arnold has been a revelation for the Reds since his introduction last season.
The 20-year-old is another player lucky in his development due to injuries, but he shows the long-term pathway in a better light as he did come through the academy and was training with the first team before his debut.
Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek is the main example of how big teams can in fact hinder a career. He has been at Chelsea since the age of eight and is now 23-years-old, only just getting first-team football. Under Jose Mourinho, Loftus-Cheek was only 21 and was very much seen as the future of the English midfield, while he is now playing for England and was perhaps unfortunate not to play more at the World Cup.
Loftus-Cheek stuck out his Chelsea career and saw limited progression. He was being wasted on the bench and sought a loan move away. In his season at Crystal Palace, he became a first-team regular and is now one of Chelsea’s go-to midfielders when fit. His versatility, strong build and determination is the attitude and personality that has made him a fan favourite at Chelsea. He never gave up on his Blues career and is currently seeing the rewards of that.
Loftus-Cheek also shows the negative side to the academy and youth progression. He was stationary in his career for almost three years while waiting at Chelsea. It is argued that Loftus-Cheek has the same ability as Dele Alli; one was given a chance, the other was not.
The Best of the Rest
There are others that have made some impact on the English game from academy sides, such as Dominic Calvert-Lewin at Everton. Although he is struggling with form, he has got himself well into the first team fold and is making consistent appearances. Harry Winks from Tottenham has shown how to breakthrough slowly into a first team set up and is now reaping the rewards, taking advantage of lack of squad depth to make a strong impact on this Spurs team. Winks has also been handed a cap for England for his progressive work over the last three years.
Harry Kane is often forgotten in this bracket as he has done so well for over three years now, winning two golden boots in the league and one at the World Cup. Kane did come from the Spurs academy following a youth move from Arsenal and has been trusted by Mauricio Pochettino ever since.
With all the successes of these players, there have been countless others that haven’t been able to make the step up, or have slowly lost their way in football due to loan moves or other circumstances.
One of these players is Nathaniel Chalobah, now of Watford. He has found football hard to come by in the Premier League due to injury and patchy performances. However, the focus here is on his time at Chelsea. He was often blocked out of first team chances by senior players despite making over 100 youth caps for England and enjoying many successful loan spells. Chalobah was very similar to Loftus-Cheek in his lack of game time.
Who Does This Relate To?
The main focus right now is Chelsea’s 18-year-old winger, Callum Hudson-Odoi. He is pushing for a move away from Stamford Bridge after German champions Bayern Munich came calling. As Sancho has shown, such a monumental change can be achieved by moving; Hudson-Odoi’s mind may have been swayed.
It shows that if English clubs keep surpressing their best talent, then other top-end European teams will now spend the money on them. Our best talent being stolen right under our noses.