England international Jadon Sancho has said he always thought Borussia Dortmund was the right fit for him – despite the interest of other top clubs around Europe.
Sancho has been a key part of Dortmund’s title challenge, scoring six goals and recording a league-high nine assists to help his side open up a seven-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga with 14 matches left.
The 18-year-old winger’s second season in Germany has been a resounding success, and the Londoner maintains that – although it was a “big risk” – he never had any doubts about the move from Manchester City.
“It speaks for itself,” Sancho said, when asked by FourFourTwo magazine why he chose to join Dortmund. “Youngsters get opportunities. You’ve got to thank Dortmund, because it’s unheard of for a team that gets 80,000 at every home game to put so much faith in youngsters.
“It was crazy how many clubs wanted me – Spurs [Tottenham Hotspur] among them. It shows how well you’re doing, but I always felt Dortmund was the right club for me.”
Watch: Learn about Sancho's hopes for Dortmund
Sancho scored once and got four assists in 12 league appearances in his first season in the Bundesliga, which was truncated due to his involvement in England’s FIFA U17 World Cup-winning squad.
“They’re so keen to press from the front - that’s the big difference,” he said, when discussing what he had learned while he was adapting to German football. “I’m not saying English teams don’t press - it’s just intense and physical here. You don’t get much time on the ball.”
The former Watford youngster’s Bundesliga debut eventually came in a 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt in October 2017. Wearing the No. 7 jersey that had been freed up by the departure of Ousmane Dembele for Barcelona, Sancho realised he still had a lot of work to do.
“It was a dream come true, and a real win-win,” he recalls. “I was so nervous. Scared even. Dembele had just left and the fans were thinking ‘Who’s this No.7? He must be a big thing.’
“I’ll never forget my first dribble. I tried to take on their full-back, he tackled me and I dropped to the floor. I couldn’t get back up. Welcome to adult football, eh? I thought I had so much time and could do my own thing, then BANG! I knew I had to release the ball quicker after that.”
The fleet-footed wide man credits Peter Stöger, who was Dortmund manager in the second half of the 2017/18 campaign, with offering him more game time and – crucially – allowing him to properly express himself on the field.
That trend has continued under current boss Lucien Favre, with Sancho responding by leaving the Swiss coach with little option but to include him in his starting XI more often than not. The teenager has featured in every league game so far this season, and started all but one of them since December.
A personal highlight came on Matchday 17, when Dortmund were looking to quell any doubts about their title credentials by bouncing back from their first league defeat of the season – a 2-1 reverse at struggling Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Watch: Find out what makes Sancho so good
He said he got “genuine goosebumps” that weekend. His family watched Dortmund’s last game of 2019 from the stands and the manic masses inside Signal Iduna Park – particularly those forming the Yellow Wall in the South Stand – hailed Sancho’s strike with the passion that they have become famous for.
“That goal was where it really hit me,” he said. “That atmosphere is what football’s all about – the passion our fans have is insane. Every. Single. Week. Even when it’s cold.
“The Yellow Wall is always packed out and singing. When you play, you don’t notice it too much because you’re focused on the game. It’s when you score. Wow!”