It’s Monday 10 August and Jadon Sancho is still a Borussia Dortmund player. Of course, with almost two months left of the transfer window, the door is far from closed on a potentially record-breaking deal for a British player but Manchester United should start to seriously consider the alternatives to their primary transfer target.
“We plan on having Jadon Sancho in our team this season, the decision is final. I think that answers all our questions,” the Bundesliga club’s sporting director Michael Zorc confidently asserted at a press conference as the English winger linked up with his teammates for pre-season.
Such has the obsession been surrounding Sancho for the last few months it’s hard to imagine an alternative player arriving at Old Trafford this summer. But there are alternatives. There are always alternatives.
Leon Bailey, Kingsley Coman, Adama Traore and Jack Grealish are all possible transfer targets who could supply the same amount of dynamism, pace and goal threat to United’s forward line as the heavily courted Sancho. There’s no doubting that the former Manchester City academy player is the pick of the bunch (based on his recent numbers) and should remain Ed Woodward’s priority but the Red Devils’ future success doesn’t lie solely at the feet of Sancho.
£108m is the widely agreed fee that will take Sancho away from the Signal Iduna Park this summer. If the 20-year-old joins in the coming weeks, stays for ten years and wins a bucket-load of silverware then there will be no questioning that United got value for money, that the deal was worth it and Woodward finally came good.
But football doesn’t often work like that. United understandably want to pay the huge fee in instalments. Coronavirus has hit the 20-time champions finances hard and they’re unable or unwillingly to pay Dortmund’s asking price in full or in the German’s desired plan. Just last week several reports emerged stating that if a compromise in price couldn’t be agreed then United would be prepared to walk away.
There are still two months left of this extended transfer window so the time for such drastic action has not yet arrived. To give up hope of signing one of the world’s most talented youngsters would be foolish but it is an alternative reality that needs to be heavily explored.
United have only just shaken off the burden of Alexis Sanchez’s reported £400,000 per week wages. The hierarchy is desperate to avoid another embarrassing situation where they overspend and overpay a potential star.
For far too long in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, the United board bought players for reckless sums on obscene wages. The likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria and Sanchez earned a fortune from their time in Manchester without ever giving anything of note in return.
The Sancho transfer is far more thought out, however. He fits the bill of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s well-constructed transfer policy that has served him and the club so well over the last 18 months. His resale value also provides far less risk than the aforementioned players but that doesn’t mean the structure that’s been put in place should be broken to secure his signature.
English players cost a premium price in the modern market but Woodward will have noticed several similar players move for considerably cheaper than the price he is currently being quoted. Bayern Munich paid £54m for Leroy Sane. City replaced him with Ferran Torres for just £20.8m. These deals benefitted from the players having limited time left on their contracts, something United thought they could count on with Sancho but now appears they cant.
“Last summer we adjusted Jadon’s salary to match the development of his performances. So in context, we had already extended his contract until 2023 back then,” Zorc also revealed on Monday.
As the Sancho deal appears ever more unlikely United need to stick to their guns. Yes, do whatever they can to get the 20-year-old winger through the doors at Carrington, but within reason. Sancho is not the only way for United to be successful.
Arsenal have lived to regret giving Mesut Ozil his bumper new deal that broke their structure from the day he signed it. It caused a ripple effect that ran through the core of the club unsettling many senior players and resulted in Aaron Ramsey leaving on a free. Such mistakes must be learnt from.
United can no longer be held to ransom over a player’s proposed price. It could do more harm than good in the long-term if they abandon their pre-established budget at the first sign of trouble. The message that it would send out across the continent would be heard for years to come and undo the good work that Solskjaer has put in place since his arrival. It would leave them at the mercy of selling club’s quoting extortionate figures for the foreseeable future.
Sancho may be the best option out there but he’s certainly not the only one.