Jadon Sancho's 100: Borussia Dortmund's England No.7 reaches a century of Bundesliga appearances
Jadon Sancho has brought up his 100th Bundesliga game for Borussia Dortmund after he came back from injury to feature for the four-time Bundesliga champions in their Matchday 30 home game against Union Berlin.
When Sancho came to Germany from Manchester City in 2017, he was billed as promising. His decision to step into the No.7 shirt recently vacated by Ousmane Dembele - who departed for Barcelona - was bold, but certainly not, with hindsight, unjustified.
"I would say I'm a bit tricky, direct and just confident," Sancho said ahead of his first appearance for his country. "I believe in myself in one-v-one situations. I used to look at Ronaldinho, growing up, on YouTube. I just liked how he used to carry his team sometimes… and obviously, he used to try things that no one else would try."
Watch: The story of Sancho
In 10 years' time, rising Bundesliga starlets will be telling the story of how they used to look up Sancho on the Internet, because his stats are quite simply sensational. The talent that Dortmund saw has been exploited outrageously by the London-born attacker, who jumped from England's U19 team to his country's senior international side, bypassing the steps between thanks to his 2018/19 breakthrough campaign.
He ended that season with 12 goals and a league-high 19 assists. He followed that up with 17 strikes last term and 15 assists. His nine assists and six goals this season mean Sancho boasts a tally of 36 goals and 43 assists in his 100 Bundesliga matches to date. With 7248 minutes in his legs in those games, it means the England international has been involved in a Dortmund Bundesliga goal every 92 minutes! Virtually one strike per match.
His productivity last season was off the charts. Almost literally. His 17 goals and 16 assists were a combined tally that no Dortmund player has ever been able to beat since assists began to be recorded in 1992. Only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner - then of RB Leipzig - were involved in more goals in the German top flight.
Watch: All of Sancho's goals and assists in 2019/20
"He's absolutely world class," said former Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Manchester City midfielder Dietmar Hamann to Sky. "In one-against-ones, there's nobody better than him right now. He's two-footed and can play on either side, shifts his weight fantastically and is technically perfect." "For a young player, it's never always an upward trajectory, but the way he's come out of a dip shows that he's really got the right character. He seems to be working even harder."
Ah yes, the dip. There is always one in a career, particularly that of a young player, and Sancho only turned 21 in March.
Up to the winter break of the 2020/21 season - that is to say the first 13 matches of the campaign - Sancho did not score a single goal from 25 attempts at goal. But clearly, he made a New Year's resolution to find the net more regularly in 2021: his six goals (from just 19 shots) since the turn of the year are bettered only by out-and-out goalgetters Lewandowski, Andre Silva, Wout Weghorst and Sasa Kalajdzic.
Dortmund teammate Erling Haaland has found the net more times than Sancho in 2021 too, but the Norwegian phenomenon can thank BVB's assist king for the significant role he has played in that too.
The pair have always had a good understanding. "Playing behind him and with him is just a great feeling, especially on the training pitch because we work on a lot of things like one-twos," said Sancho shortly after Haaland's January 2020 arrival from Red Bull Salzburg. "I know where to find him and where he wants the ball, and he knows how I want the ball played to me - so it's a good understanding between us."
No fewer than six of Sancho's nine assists this season have been for Haaland.
Watch: Analysis: Dortmund's dream duo - Sancho and Haaland
"He's been playing really well for weeks and has been working a little bit differently for the past few weeks and months," Mats Hummels told Sky. "Both in training and in the gym, and now he's getting his reward for that.
"He's playing excellently and is leading by example. We already knew that he's got attacking potential that very few others possess."
The injury that had forced him to miss the previous six Bundesliga games halted the momentum that Sancho had built in the new year, but now he's back on the pitch, you can be assured that he will soon build up a head of steam.
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