English teenager Jadon Sancho chose Borussia Dortmund over Bayern Munich, the Bavarian club have admitted. And he won’t likely be the last one as Dortmund focus their scouting efforts on English youth.Bayern Munich's explosive press conference last month made headlines for many reasons but one moment was especially peculiar.
Asked by a reporter from German weekly Sportbild why Bayern didn't sign English starlet Jadon Sancho despite interest in the player and a meeting with his agent, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic was abruptly cut off.
"I'll answer that," interrupted chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, telling the journalist that his question had already been answered privately and threatening legal action should he fail to drop the subject. "If your source has told you that, then you need to stop using that source," added Salihamidzic.
Now however, Salihamidzic has reportedly assured Sportbild that "it is correct that FC Bayern did want Jadon Sancho. An offer was made but unfortunately it was not accepted."
According to the publication, despite offers of more money elsewhere, the former Manchester City teenager had already decided to join Borussia Dortmund after the Black and Yellows made a positive impression during months of intensive scouting.
"I decided on BVB because the club offered me great perspectives," Sancho told Sportbild. "They showed intense interest in me early on and that gave me a good feeling. Furthermore, lots of young players have developed well [in Dortmund] in recent years."
Since officially joining Dortmund on 31 August 2017 for just €8 million ($9 million), Sancho has undergone an impressive development of his own. The 18-year-old has scored five goals and contributed eight assists in 17 appearances for the Bundesliga leaders in all competitions this season, nailing down a first-team place and even making his international debut for England.
On Saturday, he looked far from out of his depth against defending champions Bayern, playing an influential role in his team's dramatic 3-2 win. He's feeling at home in Germany and has signed a contract extension to keep him in Dortmund until 2022.
"[Being at BVB] is taking my game to a different level," he told the BBC in his native Britain. "I'm playing and getting the chance to show the world what I can do on the pitch."
More where that came from …
Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund are stepping up their interest in talent from "die Insel" – the island, as Germans refer to Britain.
"The focus is on the English market and Jadon is a good example," said Sebastian Kehl, the head of Dortmund's professional football division, in a recent interview with Britain's Daily Mail.
Could this mark a change in strategy from Dortmund, whose sporting director Michael Zorc has previously spoken of his club's interest in France? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (scouted playing for Saint-Etienne), Ousmane Dembele (Rennes) and Dan-Axel Zagadou (Paris Saint-Germain) have all crossed the border into neighboring Germany in recent years.
"In England, the young players haven't been getting the chance to play because the structure of the clubs and squads is totally different," Kehl explained. "This could be a good thing for us, but we have to be fast."
A win-win for all parties
Of course, it's not just Borussia Dortmund – and other Bundesliga clubs – who stand to benefit from the acquisition of young English talent; the players themselves have a lot to gain as well.
After Oliver Burke's season with Red Bull in Leipzig and Reece Oxford's loan spell at Borussia Mönchengladbach, Arsenal teenager Reiss Nelson has followed his childhood friend Sancho across the English Channel.
"Sanch started the trend, I'd say," Nelson, having already racked up six goals on loan at Hoffenheim this season told the BBC. "We are kind of setting the trend for young lads to come over.
"I know a lot of the top [young] players in England and they're always asking: 'How is life in Germany, how is the Bundesliga?' I just say: 'It's great'. They believe in young players and that's the main thing. Getting the belief behind you to play football."
According to a study by the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) in Neuchatel, Switzerland, players aged 21 or under accounted for just 5.3 percent of all Premier League minutes played this season, as of Matchday 12. The Bundesliga, on the other hand, leads the way in that metric, with more minutes played by under-21 players (14.7 percent) than in any of Europe's top five leagues.
"If English clubs are not giving you a chance then going abroad is always an option," Sancho told the BBC. "That's what the Bundesliga is about. They believe in you, they trust you and, even if you're so young, they wouldn't get you out here if they didn't really believe in your ability."