It was always going to be tough to beat last season for Jadon Sancho.
With 20 goals and 17 assists in 44 appearances, the young Borussia Dortmund winger has been billed as the next great success for Manchester United and England.
But the storyline we all wrote for the 21-year-old didn’t exactly turn out.
That big move to United didn’t happen, his numbers have dropped this season and it’s suddenly difficult to find him a place in England’s starting XI for Euro 2020.
The injuries meant he missed England’s final round of games in March and a violation of COVID restrictions landed him a spot on Gareth Southgate’s Villains List in October.
All the while, Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish have emerged as options that have even cast doubt on England regulars such as Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford.
However, on Thursday night we were reminded that Sancho remains one of the brightest stars in the world.
He would have been the youngest player to score twice in the German Cup final if 20-year-old Erling Haaland had not also landed a brace in Dortmund’s 4-1 fight against RB Leipzig.
They were Sancho’s 15th and 16th goals of the season in all competitions, all the more impressive considering his injury absence for over a month.
“He clearly hasn’t been watched enough because if you look at his performances in 2021, they have been exceptional,” European football expert Kevin Hatchard told the Trans European Express on Sunday.
“He’s scored goals, made goals and caught games by the skin of the neck like he does.
“He made sure he came back, got himself in the right position and the coach worked really hard with him to be a two-player.
“I think he has to be part of the England team. It would be a big mistake not to take it.
Jadon Sancho in 2019/20 (all competitions)
Jadon Sancho in 2020/21 (all competitions)
On TransferMarkt, the Englishman is considered the sixth most valuable player in world football according to their current estimates.
Barely the mark of someone who has stopped boiling.
Haaland is one of the players ahead of him, and last night’s final helped explain the narrative around Sancho this season.
It’s quite possible that we’ve all been too distracted by Haaland’s numbers, those endless ties to Manchester United, to give Sancho the same level of appreciation.
Indeed, it’s hard to rave about someone on such glowing terms when Sancho isn’t even his club’s most impressive player. His thunder has been stolen, if you will.
But Haaland’s outrageous performances this season have often been the product of Sancho’s creativity – and they certainly don’t mean we should forget about the England star.
United certainly didn’t and it’s no surprise that the rumors we got used to last summer are doing the rounds this morning, with reports of a possible Jesse Lingard trade between the Red Devils and Dortmund.
And with the Euro 2020 opener in England less than a month away, we don’t think Southgate will have forgotten Sancho either.