Football Features

Jadon Sancho’s Lionel Messi impression has Borussia Dortmund eyeing Wembley return

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:34, 1 May 2024

Jadon Sancho was the star of the show as Borussia Dortmund beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

Dortmund welcomed PSG to the Signal Iduna Park as the slight underdogs for the tie, with the French side favourites to reach the final at Wembley.

But Dortmund were buoyed perhaps by their heartache at Wembley 11 years ago, losing to Bayern Munich, with the hopes of avenging that.

And it showed, with Dortmund making their home advantage count. The damage was done in the 35th minute as Niclas Fullkrug bared down on goal and coolly slotted the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.


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That was all Dortmund needed to take the game, and extend their unbeaten run at home in the Champions League to 11 games. Only Man City (31), Bayern Munich (15) and Real Madrid (12) have longer active runs in the competition.

But it was all about Sancho.

A lot has been said about Sancho over the past few years, particularly due to his tough run and eventual freezing out at Manchester United. But returning to Dortmund, Sancho has been finding his feet.

Against PSG, Sancho completed a ridiculous 12 dribbles, the most on record in the competition by an Englishman (since 2003/04). The last player to complete more take-ons in a Champions League semi-final was Lionel Messi, who completed 16 in Barcelona’s matchup with Man Utd in April 2008.

That’s not it. He also completed more take-ons against PSG than any Dortmund player has managed in a single Champions League game across the past eight seasons.

To put it all into more context, Sancho never completed more than six take-ons in any of his 58 appearances for Man Utd.

He also created three chances and made 25 passes into the final third, more than any other Dortmund player for the latter. Sancho wasn’t a peripheral player either, he was at the heart of everything Dortmund did.

Sancho had 99 touches on Wednesday, more than any other Dortmund player, with only Nuno Mendes (104) having more among either team. But it was Mendes that Sancho gave a tough evening. Since the start of the 2016/17 season, only Neymar has completed more take-ons in a single Champions League knockout game than Sancho did vs PSG — though the Brazilian does hold the top three on that list.

It raises the question, what happened at Man Utd?

“I saw cage football from Sancho today,” Rio Ferdinand said on TNT Sports.

“This is the kid who grew up in cages playing tonight with that arrogance and that little bit of swagger that I’ve been sitting saying it’s there, but we haven’t seen it.”

He added: “He will come off this pitch on a high, he’ll see all of the people going on about him on social media and love it, and rightly so.

“I hate to go back but I want to know what happened at Man Utd. Why didn’t it go well there?!

“Jadon Sancho was making people dance and we have not seen that since he was last at Dortmund. Sancho isn’t just a dribbler or someone who runs past people with pace. He wants to come in and play one-twos and be in the game.

“The frustration at Man Utd is why is he not doing that? Is it the physicality of the Premier League?

“The way he played in this Champions League semi-final, you cannot devalue that.”

Of course, Sancho will still get criticism from those who believe he isn’t consistent enough to be considered among the top players. But Owen Hargreaves had a message for them, having watched Sancho compete with the best.

“I’ve played in Champions League semi-finals, the shirt’s heavy no matter what team you’re playing for so that deserves a lot of praise,” Hargreaves said.

“Any haters out there can hate and say he didn’t do it consistently. That today, he outperformed the best player in the world today, Kylian Mbappe. And that deserves a lot of praise.

“I know he’s been in spaces where he hasn’t been at his best. That today was super impressive.”

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