Jadon Sancho has followed a path that more English talents should take

Eni Aluko on 11 October 2018

England return to Nations League action on Friday and there is one player I am really excited about seeing perform for Gareth Southgate’s side –Jadon Sancho. Make no mistake, the winger’s call-up is a big deal for English football and could mark a turning point for young English players.

There has been talk for many years about the lack of opportunities given to young domestic talent, especially at the top clubs, and whether it is good for their development and that of the national team for them to be sitting on the bench or going out on loan to a club in a lower league. One suggestion has been that more should go abroad but few have, partly because they and those around them have feared it would lead to their chances with England becoming compromised. Step forward Sancho to show that does not have to be the case.

Here we have an 18-year-old who is doing well at Borussia Dortmund, a big club in a fast-paced, intense, high-quality league and on the back of that he has been rewarded with a call up for his country. Southgate has clearly been watching Sancho play for Dortmund and brought him into his squad for the games against Croatia and Spain. By doing that he has also sent out a wider message, namely he is watching all English players, including those who are abroad. That is so important because it tells young players at clubs such as Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United there is alternative to just sitting and waiting for their opportunity. Rather they can “do a Sancho”, go to another country entirely and potentially still be picked by England.

It’s a move that can also benefit players who are getting some playing time for club and country. Take Marcus Rashford. It’s clear he is not comfortable in front of goal at the moment. He is snatching at chances, possibly because he is worried about putting a foot wrong under José Mourinho. He is regressing in his club career and, as Jamie Carragher suggested a while back, perhaps does need to leave United. But they are unlikely to sell him to another top-six Premier League club and he is too good for a lower-league side, so another obvious option is abroad.

He probably isn’t ready for Real Madrid or Barcelona – and they probably are not interested in him either – but he could do well at a club such as Dortmund. The Bundesliga side may not be at the level of Real or Barça, or Bayern Munich for that matter, but it is still a place where there is pressure to perform week in, week out and he will get regular playing time. Such an environment would test Rashford, as it has tested Sancho. The fact he has flourished says so much about him, especially given he is only 18.

Sancho is clearly a major talent with great dribbling ability and goalscoring prowess. I heard Rio Ferdinand singing his praises recently, saying he has everything to succeed at the highest level, and there are definite similarities with Raheem Sterling in regards to how he plays. As much as Sancho is lucky to be able to play for Dortmund, they are lucky to have a player with his qualities and potential.

Moving abroad will also benefit Sancho as a person. As I can testify, living in a foreign country takes you way out of your comfort zone. It’s the little things, like ordering food in a different language, buying petrol or learning to drive on the other side of the road, but they all add up to making you a more rounded, educated person. Sancho will take so much from being in Germany – it can only benefit him.

In regards to the Nations League in general, I have to disagree with Jürgen Klopp’s description of it as a “senseless” competition. An opportunity to play for your country is never senseless and especially when the games are competitive. They mean more and will only help those who take part before competing at major tournaments, such as the World Cup. Klopp should respect that and, in general, it is never a good thing when club managers comment negatively on international football.

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Speaking of international football, I was impressed with how the England women performed in their 1-1 draw with Australia on Wednesday, having also impressed in the 1-0 win against Brazil. It was a really great performance against Australia, with lots of entries into the opposition box and they would have got more out of it in regard to the result had it not been for the referee, who missed two clear penalties.

Phil Neville was very critical about the standard of refereeing in women’s football. Yes there were some really bad decisions in the game but I have seen some really bad decisions from referees in men’s games, too. It happens and hopefully Florence Guillemin, the French official who was in charge at Craven Cottage on Tuesday, looks at the decisions she made and learns from them.

As for England’s display, Fran Kirby was once again excellent and proved why she has deservedly received the Ballon d’Or nomination. I spoke to Fran earlier this year and thanked her for being such a joy to play with last season and told her to expect a nomination. In typical humble fashion she laughed it off, so I am delighted to see it has now become a reality.

Having scored with a fantastic header against Brazil she showed great technique to score against Australia and is now that key player for England like she is for Chelsea, which is what England will need at the World Cup next year.

Fran fully deserves that recognition and is in great company with other Chelsea nominees Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kanté. Hopefully she goes on to win the prize.

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