The news erupts with headlines about Manchester United buying up young Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, but it’s a potential move only made possible by his crucial Bundesliga experience. We dig deeper into why the Premier League should loan out its youngest and brightest to the German top flight.
From the very first day I became a fan of football, the guiding principle of what to do with young, raw talent in the Premier League had been simple: if you’re the manager, you ship them out to the Championship. No ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, or ‘buts’ about it — you just do it. But as time has gone on that guiding principle has changed. There is another league now that has proven itself very well at taking young Premier League talent and developing it: Germany’s top flight league, the Bundesliga. This isn’t to say the Bundesliga is the sole league to develop young talent from the Premier League. We have seen Chelsea use the Dutch Eredivisie frequently in recent years, and it remains a good option. But, for some players, they need that extra step up as well as one of the most crucial elements to solid development: time. This is what makes the Bundesliga special.
Time Is of the Essence
Time is what players need to become their best, and in Germany, players have the chance to play in a prestigious league in front of massive crowds all while learning about themselves in a culture away from home. On top of that, players have the chance to learn how to play in a league that very much emphasizes technical play and has several teams that specialize in getting the most of out of young talent. All the while, they don’t lose much of the physicality that the English top flight has either. So far, what cases suggest that players moving there is a good idea, and that this trend should become commonplace? The best example, at the moment at least, is Jadon Sancho. The English phenom, now lighting up the news with a potential move back home to Manchester (only this time to United) has been utterly amazing this term for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, helping them atop the table with an unbeaten start. He leads the league with six assists so far, and has done so at only age 18. Would he be at this level of spectacular play if City had loaned him out to Derby County, or even a lower Prem side a couple of seasons ago? Absolutely not. Instead of loaning him to the Bundesliga, as they should have done and as the trend should be, City sold him at a cut-rate to BVB last season. And he’s been a huge steal for BVB since — and likely won’t return to City if you believe the headlines.
Another player who shows that the Bundesliga is the ideal league to learn at is Renato Sanches. Remember his brilliant Euro 2016 performance that saw him burst onto the scene for Portugal? It earned him a move from Benfica to Bayern Munich, where he very quickly struggled to break in to the first team. So he left Bayern to join former coach Paul Clement at Swansea, seemingly great remedy to the lack of minutes at Bayern. But that turned out to be a huge mistake. Sanches, whose team became embroiled in a relegation scrap for the entirety of the Premier League season, barely saw time on the pitch. It was a disastrous spell, and it led many to write him off as the player to watch in the future he was once thought to be. Since returning to Bayern this past July though, he’s had an uptick in form. The problem and solution became clear: he just needed time. What if Bayern had instead loaned him to a team like Werder Bremen or Wolfsburg? Surely that would have allowed him to find his feet a little better, while still getting crucial minutes in a competitive league.
Time is something that the Premier League just isn’t offering anymore. A manager who goes four or five games without a win is already at risk of getting the sack, and a club battling relegation isn’t the ideal environment for a young player with lots of talent. Furthermore, the increased revenue streams only serve to make matters worse. Teams like Swansea (and others as well) just don’t have the time or quite frankly the guts to let youngsters get bred into the team. So, the solution could well be to loan players out to the Bundesliga. Of course, these should be uber-talented players. There is nothing wrong with sending someone to the Championship or League One if they aren’t ready for first-division football. But there is a problem if you are sending them players like Liverpool‘s Harry Wilson, for example, who’s currently on loan to Derby County. Considering he’s of the caliber that would benefit from the better competition the Bundesliga offers, Derby County and the Championship is low on the list of the best destinations for him to develop.
Two players related to Chelsea serve as a testament to the fact that the Bundesliga can be a beacon of hope for youngsters: Andreas Christensen, who is currently with Chelsea, and one of the most obvious examples in recent history, famous Chelsea misfit Kevin De Bruyne. Christensen spent year after year on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach but eventually found a place at the heart of Antonio Conte’s three-man defense, where Conte frequently heaped praise on the Dane. De Bruyne was never loaned out; Chelsea sold him to Wolfsburg (which they surely regret), where he helped the German side accomplish incredible achievements that they’ve been unable to recreate without him. Now he’s lighting up the pitch at Manchester City, but as this Bundesliga article explains, he was made in the German league at Wolfsburg. Both players took full use of the opportunity afforded to them in the Bundesliga, and it paved the way for them at big clubs down the road in English football.
In summation, this is not a fix-all solution nor a suggestion that the Bundesliga become a second-tier training ground for the Premier League. Rather, it’s a way for both sides to prosper. If Liverpool, Spurs, or Manchester City, for example, have a talented teen coming through the ranks, they would be wise to look for a team in Germany that is in the mid-table and will supply him minutes. It’s sink or swim there, and it will also better help managers and club staff choose t if a player is worth hanging on to or not. Of course, it does require a special sort of player to withstand a loan spell abroad. But for the top players that truly have big potential, this is what they need most: an opportunity to flourish in a football-crazed country in a top-flight setting. And that’s just what the Bundesliga provides.