Jadon Sancho returned to the Borussia Dortmund starting XI to hit a hat-trick against Paderborn in a 6-1 win on Sunday and cement his side’s place in second spot in the Bundesliga. He also took the opportunity to demand justice for George Floyd.
Sunday's game was the forward's first start since the Bundesliga returned and he made huge statements on and off the pitch - scoring a hat-trick but also revealing a 'Justice for George Floyd' t-shirt after scoring his first goal.
Sancho was a notable absentee from Borussia Dortmund’s startling eleven since the return of the Bundesliga. The simple reason was he was not match fit.
The 20-year-old was due to start the first game back against Schalke, only to be withdrawn after the warm-up. He would enter the field of play in the 79th minute of that game and was again a second-half substitute against Wolfsburg and then Bayern.
The England international was laboured in all his appearances from the bench. This led to some stinging criticism of his coach Lucien Favre, with Lothar Mathaus eliciting a sharp response from the Swiss boss.
LOTHAR MATTHAUS CRITICISM
The 150-cap German international told Sky Germany that he could not understand Favre’s reluctance to start the forward, particularly in the Bayern match.
I'm surprised that Sancho didn’t play from the start. I would have expected him to do so today, but Favre must have some reason not to change the line-up.
"In a game against Bayern you need experience and robustness. I would have done it differently."
Sancho would enter the fray at the interval but proved unproductive in turning the match in his side’s favour after Joshua Kimmich had given Bayern the lead on the cusp of the interval. If anything, Dortmund were less threatening with Sancho than without.
And after that top-of-the-table clash, Dortmund boss Favre tempered the clamour for Sancho to start. First, he hit back at Matthaus, saying:
Sorry, but Lothar cannot know everything that happens internally at our club. I am the coach, and I see my players every day.
“We have to be careful that he [Sancho] doesn’t get injured again."
Yes and no. Favre’s conservative approach to reintegrating Sancho into his first-team plans bore fruit in the shape of a hat-trick, yes.
However, as Eurosport Germany’s Marc Hlusiak told the UK office, said reintegration was perhaps a week too late.
Sancho scored a hat-trick against Paderborn, just five days after not being fit to start against Bayern. Favre should have been braver against Bayern as that is how titles are won.
That his performance was excellent is in no doubt.
However, the excellence of his performance can reflect one of two ways on Favre:
His protection worked as a fitter Sancho hit the ground running in his first start
His conservatism cost Dortmund the opportunity to beat - and then put pressure on - Bayern in the title race
Matthaus probably thinks it is the latter while Favre definitely thinks it is the former.
HOW GOOD CAN SANCHO BECOME?
Jadon Sancho's current performance level dictates that he is the best - and most sought-after - young talent in the world. By any measure Sancho is already one of the best players in the world.
In the Bundesliga he is currently its third highest goalscorer this year with 17 goals behind only Robert Lewandowski (29) and Timo Werner (24) and his total of 16 assists sees him second behind Thomas Muller (18) for assists provided.
Further, as per the Bundesliga website, he is the youngest player in the league's history – it was founded in 1963 – to score 30 goals, and the first player, since the statistics were first collected in 2004, to hit over 15 goals and 15 assists in a season.
Basically, he is an elite goalscorer and an elite goal provider. That is rare and esteemed company.
Sancho hat-trick keeps Dortmund in title hunt
A STATEMENT MAKER ON AND OFF THE PITCH
He was excellent on the pitch. However, his most important contribution may have come off the pitch on Sunday.
Sancho joined Weston McKennie, Achraf Hakimi and Marcus Thuram by using his platform to call for action in the George Floyd case, revealing a t-shirt that read 'Justice for George Floyd'. He would later take to social media to call the day bittersweet.
“A bittersweet moment personally as there are more important things going on in the world today that we must address and help make a change,” posted the winger to his Twitter account after the match.
We must come together as one and fight for justice. We are stronger together!
These young athletes shouldn’t have to make these stands. Yet inexplicably we live in a world whereby such stands, as inexplicable as it sounds, need making, and huge credit is due to Sancho for doing so.
On Sunday he made a statement on and off the pitch.
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