Jadon Sancho: outdoing Lionel Messi and Eden Hazard as Europe's assists king
Lionel Messi and Eden Hazard may be two of the best players on the planet, but when it comes to laying assists on for teammates, nobody across Europe’s five major leagues outdoes Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.
Since the start of the 2018/19 season, no player in Europe's top five leagues per UEFA coefficient has created more goals than Sancho. His 18 assists include his Bundesliga-leading 14 from last season, with the England international already registering four more in as many appearances in the current campaign.
Over the same period, Bayern Munich defender Joshua Kimmich has provided 16 goals in league outings. Belgian talisman Hazard, now of Real Madrid, teed up 15 for Chelsea - a tally equalled by Bournemouth's Ryan Fraser - while Argentine genius Messi set up 13 league goals for Barcelona, one fewer than Papu Gomez of Italian side Atalanta (14).
Watch: ALL of Sancho's Bundesliga assists (including 4 from 2017/18!)
"He's able to find a pass and the right selection of pass, more often than not," said England boss Gareth Southgate of Sancho, whom he happily mentions in the same breath as English Premier League trio Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford.
"We talked really positively about the front three the other day - but he's one that's in that sort of bracket."
EA Sports have given Sancho a 77 rating for passing in the upcoming FIFA 20 game - something the player joked about on social media. Southgate and many more Bundesliga observers might well expect that number to be in the 90s given the BVB man's devastating efficiency.
After Sancho had scored his first Bundesliga goal and provided two assists just 27 days past his 18th birthday in the 4-0 defeat of Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 31 of the 2017/18 season, then Dortmund coach Peter Stöger predicted that "if he has clarity in his work, he'll be successful here."
If Stöger had clarity of vision in making that claim, then Sancho's 20/20 vision in making the final pass or putting the finishing touch to team moves has already made him a massive success in Germany.
Since moving to Dortmund from Manchester City in summer 2017, he has definitively removed his 'promising youngster' tag and replaced it with one inscribed 'established top-class talent'.
After a bedding-in year at the Signal Iduna Park, he fired 12 league goals in addition to his 14 assists last season. It was a 'double double' that Messi only achieved in his third full season alongside the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta in an all-conquering Barca team; Hazard took four full campaigns with Lille to do the same. Both had already turned 20 when they did that - Sancho's teenage years don't end until March next year.
Watch: Sancho under the tactical microscope!
Sancho played his 50th league game for Dortmund, against Leverkusen on Matchday 4. In that time, he's scored 15 goals and registered 22 assists in total, meaning he has been involved in a goal every 1.3 Bundesliga games.
In his first 49 league outings, Messi had 19 goals and three assists (involved in a goal every 2.2 games), while Hazard had scored just six times and laid on two more on the brink of his first half-century of Ligue 1 encounters (involved in a goal every six games).
Alcacer: "Sancho will be a world star"
"He's still a kid, he's 19, has all the right characteristics, and if he doesn't suffer a dip, he'll be a top player," Dortmund teammate Paco Alcacer said of Sancho recently, high praise from a man who played with Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez at Barcelona.
"There are doubts because of his age, but as a player and a person in the dressing room, there's no faulting him. If he keeps improving and acquires a few more attributes, he'll be one of the best in the world."
According to Southgate, whose own playing career saw him feature in England sides with creative talents such as Paul Gascoigne, Matt Le Tissier and Peter Beardsley, Sancho has both the skills and the sense to make the most of his ability.
Southgate: "Confident and calm"
"I'm sure he’s not when he’s with the lads, but he’s quite quiet when we’re around and thoughtful. He’s confident in his own ability, you can see that in the way that he plays. But he’s very calm.
"He’s been through that development programme. He knows the environment we have. But also, the player has to take a huge amount of credit in those situations. You can get ideas given to you but then you’ve got to take them on board."
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