Nothing about the summer transfer window is certain. When will it start? How long will it last? How much will players be worth by then? One thing is certain: Jadon Sancho will finally get his big-money move.
Europe’s top clubs are queueing – at a safe two-metre distance, we’re sure – around the block for the England international. LaLiga’s big two, Barcelona and Real Madrid, will juke it out. As will Liverpool and Chelsea.
BVB will have known this day was coming since Sancho set foot in North-Rhine Westphalia in the summer of 2017. There was little doubting Sancho’s talent. His pathway at Manchester City blocked, Sancho took control of his destiny, rejecting a contract extension and swapping his comfort zone for Germany. It’s a decision he can look back on with no little sense of vindication.
Having spent close to three seasons at the Westfalenstadion, Sancho has become a bona fide European star. As such, he has his pick of clubs. So it might seem odd the former Watford youngster has settled on this United.
But their appeal transcends their contemporary standing. George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have all worn Sancho’s No.7 jersey with distinction. Being offered the chance to follow that quartet is attractive.
From Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s point of view, the appeal is obvious. Sancho is an electrifying talent, capable of playing in a variety of positions while beating defenders for fun and churning out chances, assists and goals like clockwork.
Sancho’s output is, quite frankly, scary. Combining his data for his three seasons in Germany, he’s posting 0.45 open-play goals (per 90) against an open-play xG of just 0.26. That is a dramatic over-performance in line with the very best players the continent has to offer.
Not only that, but Sancho is also adding value to the shots he takes. His open-play post-shot xG is 0.38 (per 90) which means he is increasing the value of his chances with smart finishing.
Looking at Sancho’s shot-placement map, he favours the corners of the goal – high-value areas. Cutting in from either flank, the forward thrives in those situations.
Sancho is an elite creator, as well as a finisher. With 0.6 assists (per 90) over the last three seasons, no-one in the Bundesliga can better his return. He’s fourth for Big Chances created (0.6) and fifth for chances created (2.47). Unsurprisingly, he has dwarfed his open-play xGA per 90 which stands at just 0.26.
This is a player at the very top of his game. And Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp believes a move to Old Trafford is right for Sancho.
“His next move is very important now because what he’s got to make sure he does is he gets in that team and he plays regularly because he’s such an amazing talent. One of the best I’ve seen in a long time,” Redknapp told Sky Sports.
“We’re talking about top five in the world in a few years, he’s got that much ability so if he goes to United, everyone knows the pressure of going to a big club. He looks the sort of young man who can handle it.”
United haven’t had a recent history of signing players at the top of their game. Their recent additions have tended to be youngsters showing signs of promise – the likes of Dan James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka – or ageing stars looking for a last payday. Alexis Sánchez, anyone?
The link between Sancho and the aforementioned Cantona could extend beyond their squad numbers. The Frenchman lifted Old Trafford when he joined from rivals Leeds United in 1992.
“He illuminated Old Trafford,” Sir Alex Ferguson said. “The place was a frenzy every time he touched the ball”. With Cantona leading the charge, Ferguson’s young side won four of the next five Premier League titles, as well as two FA Cups and three FA Charity Shields.
Despite being at the start of his ascent, Sancho could have a similar impact.
But he cannot do it alone. United have needed improvements in other areas of the field for some time. While Bruno Fernandes has plugged a gaping hole since his January arrival, he alone isn’t the solution. Nor is Sancho.
Manchester United have made the mistake of hoping a superstar will get them back on track before. The post-Ferguson era is littered with big-name, big-money additions who promised much yet delivered little. United are drawn to high-profile signings – like moths to the flame.
Sancho will improve the 2020 incarnation of Manchester United. He can’t fail to. Equally, he can’t do it on his own. That is something the 20-time champions of England must weigh up as they plan for next season and any bid to knock Liverpool off their perch.