I’m not going to tweet this out every day but I’m also not one to run away from my takes. So one more time. I’ll say it again here.
I was wrong about Jadon Sancho.
I acknowledged this yesterday and on Red Devils Talk on EFS Media I took my medicine.
I’m not going to sit here and rehash the whole thing so I’ll just say this. All the information I received publicly and privately pointed to the move happening. The player was keen, United were keen etc. He was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s biggest priority and the board promised him they’d sign him if he secured Champions League qualification.
He was also Ed Woodward’s biggest priority. Rarely in Woodward’s time at United has this happened but Sancho was the intersection of United’s footballing needs and commercial needs venn diagram.
It didn’t happen because Manchester United don’t have any money. A fact that they spent all summer trying to hide.
Sorry, they have money, what they don’t have is liquidity, there’s a difference but that’s a post for another time.
What I’m interested in is… what now?
Jadon Sancho returns to Borussia Dortmund where he has to reacclimatize to a squad that knows he wanted to leave. He missed their last game due to “illness” but shortly after he was at a birthday party breaking COVID protocol so make of that what you will.
he They knew that because a year ago he wanted to leave but it was clear it wasn’t going to happen then. It was also clear he was going to leave this summer.
Then COVID happened.
Despite COVID it still looked like he would leave and when the Bundesliga restarted, Borussia Dortmund were very much preparing for life without Sancho. In nine post-lockdown games last season Jadon Sancho started four of them.
The position in the table of those four teams? 18, 9, 16, 15
The position in the table of the five teams he didn’t start against? 6, 6, 1, 3, 7
That includes a derby and (obviously) a match against Bayern.
So Sancho will have to reintegrate himself with a coach who has prepared for life without him and has every right to question his commitment.
How did we get here?
That’s the interesting thing. We know that Sancho told Borussia Dortmund that he wanted to leave. BVB told him if we receive a €120 million offer we’ll let you go. They had an agreement.
We can question the legitimacy of that €120 agreement because The Athletic has reported BVB really wanted more.
Manchester United couldn’t pay that much money. They thought that by the deadline Dortmund would come down on their asking price, because they saw it as not taking into account the impact of COVID 19. United completely miscalculated that.
But what are the long term effects of Dortmund holding firm?
Borussia Dortmund have built themselves as a club with great scouting and player development. They are a factory for cultivating young talent. Some of that is internal and some of that is from signing some of the best teenagers in the world.
They’re able to land these kids because they could promise first team opportunities as well as the ability to play in the Champions League. Even if they’re not competing for the title, Dortmund aren’t likely to fall out of the top four so they can always play their youngsters. They also tell them, ‘when you want to leave we won’t stand in your way.’
Well, they just stood in Jadon Sancho’s way.
That €120 million did not take the financial ramifications of COVID-19 into account. If Manchester United can’t afford that, who can? Certainly not Real Madrid, who said they wouldn’t sign anyone. Not Barcelona who are laughably in a worse financial situation than United. Even PSG, backed by an Emirati only spent €59 million this summer. Peanuts for them.
Dortmund essentially priced Sancho out of a move. I can’t say anything definitive yet, but that has a chance to have a major ripple effect. If you’re Jude Bellingham how are you feeling? What if you want to leave in two years? Are you now worried the club will may hold you ransom for €250 million?
Erlin Haaland need not worry, as Mino Raiola has far more control over his situation than Dortmund do, but will this cause future players to second guess signing with Dortmund? They say they’ll be happy to sell me, but what if they slap an exorbitant price on my head?
This isn’t a problem exclusive to Borussia Dortmund. After Sancho, United’s next target was Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish. Villa didn’t want to lose their best player and throughout the season rumors swirled of a £60m price tag.
It was thought that price would go down if Villa were relegated but they stayed up. And so did the price. In fact it increased. Despite Grealish telling Villa he wanted to leave, Villa slapped an £80m price on his head.
Grealish ended up signing a new five year contract, which in all likelihood ensures he’ll spend his prime at Villa Park.
And so I wonder. Is this the direction were heading in? And if so, what happens next?
Will players become more skeptical about signing for smaller clubs. Sure you’ll get more playing time to develop but what if you can’t ever jump up to the next level? What about extensions? Will players sacrifice long term stability and move to taking shorter deals? Will we see young players start to run their deals out? Will that in turn cause teams to start trying to sell 21 year olds with a year left on their deal for less money the way they used to cut their losses on 27 year old with expiring deals.
I don’t know? It’s something that’s worth paying attention to and I’m fascinated to see how it plays out.
Maybe it goes the other way? Maybe the players don’t adapt and smaller clubs are able to keep their top players and build around them. That will have an effect on the rest of the league, not immediately, but over time. If the top teams can’t poach away the little guys talent the top teams don’t get better. If they pick talent away from other leagues they’re at least not doing the double whammy of making themselves better and a rival worse.
Right now we currently have a top 2 and then a bunch of clubs in that 3-6 range. Except there are a few clubs that are banging on that door threatening to make it more of a 3-8 range, certainly a 4-8 range. If the smaller clubs are able to start keeping their talent we could see that 4-8 range become a 4-10 range, and slowly it could become a lot more muddy. The advantage of the United’s, Arsenal’s, and Tottenham’s may disappear.
Maybe nothing happens with Borussia Dortmund. Sancho goes back and happily gets himself right back into the squad. They continue to sign top young talent and start competing with Bayern to actually win the Bundesliga.
This could be a pivotal moment in how the market goes over the next few years. It could not be. Either way I’m very interested to see how it plays out.