Jadon Sancho (left) is yet to play a minute at Euro 2020
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
The first question Jadon Sancho fielded when he spoke to radio broadcasters on the eve of the European Championships was whether he was going into the tournament under the radar.
It was a pertinent line of enquiry for a player who headed into the summer as one of the in-form wingers in Bundesliga, enjoying a productive season at Borussia Dortmund but having less exposure than his Premier League team-mates in the England squad.
Gareth Southgate once joked about sending Steve Holland out to Germany in a flat cap and glasses when Sancho broke into the Dortmund first-team, taking advantage of eyes being away from the youngster as they plotted on making him a full international at the age of 18.
“That’s normal because obviously the Premier League is the most probably the most watched league in the world,” Sancho said. "Me being in Germany, obviously all the German spectators will be watching German football so I think that’s a bit normal.”
Despite his 11 assists and eight goals in a season where he had a spell out injured, Sancho has gone from under the radar to off-the-grid at the Euros. Firstly came the shock of being left out of the matchday squad against Croatia, then he was left on the bench when England needed inspiration to find a way past Scotland.
His numbers for Dortmund in the last two seasons are comparable with any forward in Southgate’s squad but he has also been a victim of the England manager’s loyalty to players he trusts.
In almost three years since his debut, Sancho has just 10 starts to his name and is still clearly behind Marcus Rashford despite the Manchester United forward admitting in an end-of-season statement that he “struggled” during the campaign and was still managing fitness issues. Southgate usually chooses one or the other, unless Harry Kane is unavailable and Rashford plays centrally.
Sancho's snub remains a mystery
Otherwise, the only time they have started together was the 7-0 win over Montenegro which was 18 months ago. While Rashford has now lost his place in the starting line-up, it is Phil Foden who has played on the right side.
“We’ve got some explosive options – and a lot of them are young players and experiencing a big tournament for the first time,” said Southgate. “So as a coaching staff we are realistic about our expectations of them as individuals. Jadon is in that mix. He’s trained well the last few days and of course we have got those options and those decisions to make.”
Sancho has been subject of interest from Manchester United, who are negotiating with Dortmund and getting closer to the German club’s asking price of £77.5million plus add-ons. But uncertainty at club level can hardly be used as an excuse when Harry Kane declared on the eve of the tournament that he wants to join another club. United tried for Sancho last year but could not strike a deal and this summer have a deadline of July 23 to land him before Dortmund start pre-season training.
He admitted to England players having “a lot of questions” about him returning to the Premier League after four seasons in Germany. Being overlooked so far has been frustrating for a player who provided Erling Haaland with plenty of chances last season and whose hero is a player who won more than 100 caps for England.
"I’d probably say Frank Lampard because I was a Chelsea fan growing up, I’m not going to lie,” Sancho said. "Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard were my favourite players at the time and I just loved Frank Lampard and how he played his game. He was so direct and so composed on the ball and things like that."
With England drawing a blank against Scotland, Sancho is pushing for his first involvement in the tournament against Czech Republic on Tuesday, with Southgate assessing his options in attack to find a threatening formula. “I think a lot of those (attacking) players we didn’t have for the friendlies, so the chemistry is something we didn’t have a lot of opportunity to work on,” Southgate added.
“We’ve got to just keep working on that. We know there are some very good players in there, we know they can perform better than they did tonight and we’ve got to help them to find that level.”