The rumours just won’t go away.
It is suggested that Jadon Sancho has had a turbulent and strained relationship with his club, Borussia Dortmund, for some time now. Whereas Barcelona, Liverpool and Real Madrid had been in for Sancho, the number of clubs in the race to sign him now seems to have been cut to just two, with Manchester United and Chelsea likely to battle it out for Sancho this summer; the complications of a coronavirus-affected transfer window permitting. So, if Sancho does opt to leave and is able to do so, a combination of factors indicates that Chelsea — rather than a return to Manchester — would be the best fit.
In November, The Athletic reported that a sequence of events had led to Sancho feeling “humiliated and scapegoated” by both his club and his manager, the Swiss Lucien Favre. Favre has criticised his player’s attitude and professionalism after a succession of mishaps, most notably when the winger left his passport at home before the team travelled to London for a Champions League tie with Tottenham Hotspur last February.
Sancho and his employers’ relationship worsened when the Dortmund manager substituted the winger off in a 4-0 defeat to bitter rivals Bayern Munich in November. It was 1-0 at the time with only 36 minutes on the clock. But Favre has also not been shy in handing out high praise to his player, having overseen the constantly upward trending curve of Sancho’s career since he became manager in 2018. With those involved having seemingly put their troubles behind them since, inevitable stories linking him with a move away from Dortmund remain.
According to The Independent, Man United are the favourites to land Sancho and have offered the Camberwell-born star £400,000 per week, on top of what would no doubt be an astronomical transfer fee. But, hypothetically, if Sancho were given the choice and both clubs were willing to stump up the necessary money for one of world football’s hottest prospects, there are a number of reasons to suggest that Chelsea would be his best option.
The overwhelming pull drawing Sancho to West London instead of Manchester would surely be the manager. In less than two seasons in management, Frank Lampard has proven his impressive ability to develop young, specifically attack-minded British talent, with a number of homegrown players thriving under his guidance. Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham have shone this season, while Fikayo Tomori and Reece James have also made telling contributions, backed by their manager.
Most recently, Lampard’s show of faith in 18-year-old Billy Gilmour was rewarded and further emphasized how Sancho would be almost guaranteed the sort of faith in playing time he has largely been given since his move to Dortmund almost three years ago. The harnessing of such potential presumably comes naturally to Lampard, based on his empathy and being able to relate to players of a generation not too far removed from his retirement in 2017.
Lampard has much to learn and a long way to go, but this doesn’t necessarily elevate him to a position of managerial authority over Ole Gunnar Solskjær. In fact, in the same regard, Solskjær has at times proven himself to be more than capable, with the most promising aspect of his first 12 months in charge of the Red Devils being his capability to squeeze out juice from his own attacking lemons. Marcus Rashford, Daniel James, Anthony Martial and — before the current break — Bruno Fernandes have all had profitable spells and evidently enjoyed playing under the stewardship of one of United’s treble-winning heroes of 1999. Regardless, the early signs from Lampard’s managerial career suggest that he has the potential to become a better coach for Sancho to play under than Solskjær, if he has not necessarily proven it consistently up to this point.
On two particular fronts, it is hard to argue that Sancho’s ongoing development would be best served at Chelsea. As a South London boy who grew up a Chelsea fan and enjoyed watching Lampard and Didier Drogba at the peak of their powers, it would surely be an appealing move for the former Manchester City star. It would also seem to be the best place for Sancho to play within both a system and a team most closely replicating what Gareth Southgate’s England are likely to look like come next summer. With the recent postponement of Euro 2020 allowing another year for the side and its key players to flourish, Sancho could begin building relationships with players he is likely to develop alongside in the national setup.
Sancho would also be more likely to play as a starter straight away at Chelsea than Manchester United, as the Blues attempt to fill the void still left vacant after Eden Hazard’s exit. Christian Pulisic was touted as a potential replacement of the Belgian’s but hasn’t been as influential as both he and his manager would have liked since his move to West London, suffering with injuries having showed early season glimpses of just how good he could become. He is also a close friend of Sancho’s having played alongside the England youngster in Dortmund, with Sancho citing the American as an inspiration for his move to and subsequent development at the German giants.
In February 2019, in the wake of Pulisic’s confirmed transfer to Chelsea which would see him swap the Rhine for the west banks of the Thames that summer, Sancho told Raphael Honigstein of ESPN just how much he admired his then teammate.
“The club had shown with a player like Christian Pulisic that they were going in the right way, playing youngsters and giving them a chance,” Sancho said. “He came from the same situation as me, leaving his family behind.
“He was so young, and he was brave enough. America is a lot further away than England and he’s taken a bigger step than I have done. How he’s handled that, what he does on the pitch, his mentality [towards] football, it’s just crazy. The passion he has. I admire him.”
He would undoubtedly be a welcome signing for Chelsea, who are expected to spend on further strengthening the squad this summer having seen their two-window transfer ban halved in December. The Blues did acquire Hakim Ziyech in the wake of the ban, with the Moroccan sent back on loan to Ajax for the rest of the season. With Ziyech coming in, would there be room for Sancho to slot in on the other side of Lampard’s preferred front three?
With Pedro recently confirming that he will leave the club at the end of season and with Willian constantly being linked with a move to Barcelona, Lampard would certainly make room for Sancho. He would join a batch of gifted younger forward players, while being the type of genuine superstar signing that would indicate the club’s intent to compete at the top of the Premier League and in Europe once more in the near future.
For a while now, there has been limited talk of Sancho’s plausible option to stay put. Arguably, given how well things how gone for the 20-year-old in Dortmund, holding off a move for now may be the best thing for his development. In this season alone, prior the suspension of football across the continent, Sancho had a highly impressive return of 15 assists and 14 goals from 23 Bundesliga appearances alone. The former equalled Dortmund’s single season assist record, with nine league games yet to be completed.
He doesn’t have to leave now, and another year of top-level development at one of Europe’s biggest clubs with the guarantee of Champions League football — something which cannot be promised by either United or Chelsea — would hardly be a bad thing. After another productive season, the summer 2021 window could be the right time for Sancho to move back to England. But then his value would have skyrocketed further and Chelsea may have missed the boat.
Either way, it is unanimously accepted that Sancho is likely to return to the Premier League sooner rather than later, hoping to prove to Pep Guardiola and the blue half of Manchester what they have been missing since he left for Germany in 2017. Chelsea should do what they can to get there first, and Sancho would be wise in picking Stamford Bridge as the location for the next crucial step on his path to becoming one of the world’s best.