Haaland and Sancho Shaping Dortmund’s Young and Hungry Team

February 3, 2020

DUSSELDORF, Germany  — He’s 19 years old, plays for Borussia Dortmund and can’t stop scoring.

Erling Haaland? No, the other one.

While the Norwegian striker is grabbing the limelight with seven goals in his first three Bundesliga games, Jadon Sancho has arguably done more to spur Dortmund back into the German title race.

The England winger has scored nine goals in his last nine Bundesliga games, and assisted on seven more in that time. Those goals were crucial as Dortmund closed within three points of first place in a four-way battle for the German title. Sancho clicked immediately with Haaland when the Norwegian arrived from Salzburg at the start of the new year.

“Me and him combine very well and we bring it into the game and help the team,” Sancho said. “I’m very happy that he’s here.”

For the London-born Sancho, leaving Manchester City for Dortmund in 2017 in search of first-team games was a gamble. It was worth it. Scoring in Dortmund’s 5-0 win over Union Berlin on Saturday made him the youngest player in history with 25 Bundesliga goals, breaking a record which had stood since 1968.

Haaland and Sancho are the star faces in a team with a new look, but one that’s typically Dortmund. After all, the club lives off its reputation as the finishing school for Europe’s very best players. Next to Haaland and Sancho, 23-year-old Julian Brandt looks positively ancient.

Dortmund doesn’t expect Sancho and Haaland to stay forever, not after seeing Christian Pulisic leave for Chelsea at the end of last season, and Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona the year before that.

Sancho’s near-unstoppable run of form has come despite events which would have knocked lesser players off their game.

Dortmund’s been unhappy at times with Sancho’s behavior off the field. In October, he was left out of the squad for a game against title rival Borussia Monchengladbach for what the team said were “disciplinary reasons,” reportedly after returning late from England duty.

Two months later, he was benched for a crunch Champions League game against Barcelona.

“We needed 11 players who were going to be focused and ready on the field,” Dortmund coach Lucien Favre said of that decision.

The other possible distraction for Sancho is the inevitable transfer talk. A move back to England looks likely at some point, but to which club? And could his transfer fee, when that day comes, eclipse Dortmund’s record sale?

Barcelona paid 105 million euros ($116 million) and a possible 40 million euros ($44 million) more in add-ons for Dembele in 2017. That’s a high bar to clear, but Sancho might just match it.

Dortmund being Dortmund, it’s already prepared for the next generation.

Seventeen-year-old American attacking midfielder Gio Reyna, son of former U.S. national team player Claudio Reyna, was officially moved into the first team in the winter break. Since then, he’s made three substitute appearances and looks hungry for more.

Then there’s Youssoufa Moukoko. At only 15, the German-Cameroonian forward has scored 22 goals in 14 games for Dortmund’s under-19 team, including six in one game in November.

That’s rekindled talk of lowering the Bundesliga’s minimum age for players. Clubs from Germany’s top two divisions could vote in March to scrap the current rule requiring players to be at least 17, with Moukoko as the poster child for any reform.

Dortmund’s future should remain bright for a while yet.


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