It is a little over two years since Jadon Sancho made his first league start for Borussia Dortmund but such is the club’s commitment to youth, they are already talking about two even younger players to highlight their approach.
In December, Sancho became the youngest player to reach 22 Bundesliga goals, having already become the youngest Dortmund player to score 10 league goals in a single campaign in 2018-19.
His arrival from Manchester City for £10m in 2017 without playing a first-team game for the Blues is in line with Dortmund’s recruitment policy.
“The way we do things didn’t happen by accident, or by coincidence,” said legendary Borussia Dortmund midfielder Lars Ricken, who is now the club’s head of youth.
“It is a clear and obvious strategy not to buy superstars but to create them.”
The German club stand to make a massive profit if, as expected, 19-year-old Sancho leaves in the summer for a fee likely to be in excess of £100m.
In January 2019, Dortmund sold another youth player, USA forward Christian Pulisic, then aged 20, to Chelsea for £58m, and immediately took him on loan for the remainder of the campaign.
Over the past seven months, Dortmund have done two more eye-catching deals. In January, they beat Manchester United to the signing of talented 19-year-old Norwegian forward Erling Braut Haaland, who has already scored eight goals in five first-team appearances.
And in July they brought Giovanni Reyna, son of former Manchester City and USA midfielder Claudio, over from the United States. He made his senior debut in January despite only celebrating his 17th birthday in November.
‘We developed them to become superstars’
Dortmund’s philosophy emerged from the financial crisis that brought the club to its knees in 2004, seven years after Ricken scored on the greatest night in the club’s history, as they won the European Cup for the first – and so far, only – time.
Dortmund’s last Bundesliga-winning team under Jurgen Klopp in 2012 included homegrown Mario Gotze and Mats Hummels, who joined them as an untested 19-year-old. Both were subsequently sold to Bayern Munich for a combined £60m.
“Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang weren’t superstars when they came to Dortmund,” said Ricken, who watched his under-19s side lose to Derby in a Uefa Youth League play-off at Pride Park on Tuesday.
“We developed them to become superstars. It is very important for the club.
“The reason the atmosphere in our stadium is so good is because there is a great identification between the players and the fans. The supporters see it is a gift for them to play in our stadium.
“We have signed some really good players but we also have young ones – Haaland is 19, Gio is 17. They are very light on their feet. It is great to see.”