At long last, Manchester United have agreed a deal to sign Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund.
After a few years of rumours, failed attempts and near misses, Dortmund confirmed the news on Thursday, leading to celebrations and huge sighs of relief from the United faithful.
Just as they’ve done over the years with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Robert Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan, Dortmund must now start planning for life without a player who notched 50 goals and 58 assists in 137 appearances for the club across all competitions, inspiring them to the 2021 DFB-Pokal.
Who could potentially replace Sancho at Signal Iduna Park? Let’s take a look at the dream, realistic and wildcard options.
CLICK HERE to claim. 18+ only. Place £5 in bet builders at odds of at least 1/2 (1.5).Only deposits made using Cards or Apple Pay will qualify for this promotion. Free bets are valid for 30 days and must be used on a Sportsbook market. Free bets will be awarded after the qualifying bet has been settled. T&Cs apply. Paddy’s Rewards Club: Get a £10 free bet when you place 5x bets of £10+. T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.
Dream: Donyell Malen
Not many players get the chance to receive a footballing education from Ajax, Arsenal and PSV but with that being the case, is it any wonder Donyell Malen has emerged as one of European football’s most exciting talents?
Since making his debut for PSV in 2018, Malen has netted 55 goals in 116 games across all competitions, providing a further 17 assists. At international level, he already has two goals in 13 senior caps for the Netherlands, while he assisted two Dutch goals at Euro 2020.
Like Sancho, Malen is blisteringly fast, able to take an opponent down the outside to cross, or cut infield where he can fire vicious shots with his right foot. The 21-year-old can play right across the forward line, including through the middle where he excelled for PSV last season scoring 19 goals in 32 Eredivisie games. Where Sancho is a slightly more effective creator, Malen is a slightly more proficient goalscorer.
Recent reports suggest both Dortmund and Liverpool have opened talks with PSV over Malen, with the German outfit 5/4 favourites to secure his signature according to Sky Bet. A £25m fee is thought to be enough to tempt PSV to part ways with Malen, representing incredible value, especially when considering how much Dortmund are bringing in from the Sancho deal.
Realistic: Noni Madueke
After an impressive showing at the Euros, despite the Netherlands crashing out at the last-16 stage, don’t be surprised to see Malen’s fee go up somewhat. But if Dortmund don’t quite fancy paying out, they could still shop at PSV, replacing Sancho with another Englishman, Noni Madueke.
A 21-time international at youth level for England, Madueke left Tottenham to join PSV in 2018 and at just 19 years old, already has 27 Eredivisie appearances under his belt, as well as a further five in the Europa League. Last season, the teenager returned an impressive eight goals and six assists across league and continental play, despite starting just 10 of his 31 outings.
Like his PSV teammate and Sancho, Madueke is happy playing right across the front three, though last season he spent the majority of his minutes on the right, cutting into dangerous central areas on his left foot. Quick, demonic on the dribble and ruthless in front of goal, Madueke is a great fit for how Marco Rose wants to play at Dortmund and the move should be attractive for the player too as he looks to make an impression on Gareth Southgate in the coming years, just as Sancho did as a teenager.
“I’ve heard that rumour. I’m not gonna lie, it’s an honour to be linked to a club like that and it’s nice that they see me as a successor to Jadon, who is a great player,” Madueke said of the Dortmund links back in May, when his reported asking price was €15m (£12.9m).
“But I don’t really go too deep into those things. I’m more focused on doing my best at the moment and just seeing what the future holds.”
With PSV looking to end two seasons of Dutch dominance from Ajax, they would likely be much more open to selling Madueke than Malen, who is undoubtedly their star talent, while the fee itself is much more ‘post-pandemic’ friendly.
Wildcard: Wilfried Zaha
By now, Borussia Dortmund must be absolutely sick of Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga monopoly, more so than any other team in Germany. To release the Bavarian stranglehold, a change of approach may be needed where Dortmund pay out on some more established stars to supercharge their side right now, rather than in a few years time ahead of being sold on for a profit.
When looking at players who could offer anything close to what Sancho gave to Dortmund, who are desperate for a move and could be secured for a relatively reasonable price, Wilfried Zaha’s name springs to mind more than any other.
From Arsenal to Everton, Zaha has been linked to all manner of moves away from Crystal Palace over the past few years and, yet, he remains at Selhurst Park. But although Palace are understandably looking to get the best deal possible for themselves, they are now seemingly open to letting Zaha finally depart.
“We understand his position,” chairman Steve Parish told BBC Sport. “It’s no secret that he would like to challenge himself. But it has to be right for the football club. He understands that as well.
“If those two things collide then we will have to look at it. But right now, we are two days into the transfer window so it’s a bit early to talk about it.”
Zaha has been a talismanic figure for Palace across almost 400 games for the club across two spells, spearheading their attack under multiple pragmatic managers and playing a huge role in making the Eagles a Premier League mainstay.
Last season, the Ivory Coast international netted 11 goals in 30 Premier League appearances playing mostly through the middle, although he’s obviously well adept at playing on either flank. Having ranked second at Palace for shots on target (20) and dribbles completed (54), and first for fouls won (88), Zaha’s qualities are obvious. He’ll beat you one-on-one and then let fly and the only realistic way to stop him is to bring him down.
And though his raw numbers don’t quite stack up against Sancho, Malen or Madueke, it’s important to remember Zaha isn’t playing in one of the most dominant teams in his respective league.
At 28, Zaha is more than ready for another crack at Champions League football after struggling during a previous stint at Manchester United under David Moyes. Sky Bet price Dortmund at 10/1 behind Everton (9/1), Tottenham (8/1) and Arsenal (6/1) to land his signature, though the Guardian once reported the Black and Yellow were willing to smash their transfer record to sign him in the summer of 2020, so there is obvious admiration.