By the time the knockout stages for the Under-17 World Cup commence next week, its two highest-profile players will not be playing. Jadon Sancho, the England winger who moved from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund in August for Â£8m, was allowed to join his national team-mates in India only on the condition that he return to Germany after the group stage. VinÃcius JÃºnior, signed by Real Madrid from Flamengo for an eye-watering Â£39.6m in the summer before being loaned back to the Brazilian club, was not granted permission to travel to the tournament at all.
Although this may leave England and Brazil weakened and take some of the gloss off the Fifa tournament, it is positive for the development of these players. First-team action at club level is the holy grail for anyone making their way through an academy, and for Sancho in particular, this is exactly why he left Manchester City: Dortmund offered less in wages but more opportunity and a tangible pathway into the first team. Sancho needed only look at the recent careers of Christian Pulisic, Julian Weigl and Alexander Isak â among others â to see that Dortmund keep their word if the talent is there.
Sancho has yet to make his debut for the German club, partly because of a delay in his registration with the Bundesliga, partly because Dortmund are a world-class team with a wealth of talent at their disposal, but mostly because he is a 17-year-old who has moved to another country with another language and without the safety net of support that most teenagers enjoy at that age.
But he is on the verge. When he signed, Dortmundâs sporting director, Michael Zorc, labelled him âone of the greatest talents in European footballâ before handing him the No7 shirt vacated by Ousmane DembÃ©lÃ©. In Dortmundâs last game he was named as unused substitute. With Dortmund about to take on a punishing schedule that includes seven games in three weeks after suffering a spate of…