The Curious Case of Jadon Sancho: Man City's 17-Year-Old Rebel & the Demise of Youth Football
Academy football. A place where the dreams of an aspiring young footballer can be realised through nurturing coaches, excellent facilities and hard work, motivated by the looming reminder that if you succeed here, you can make it to the big time and follow in the footsteps of your idols.
On the contrary, the harsh reality of academy football for a young child can be harrowing, as they lose touch with the real world, become encapsulated in a synthetic bubble, and collate all their hopes for the future in the lottery that is professional football. Such is the painful significance of being released by a club in a child's formative years, many lose their passion for the game they once loved and fail to bounce back from the rejection, inadvertently turning to a life of ill-advised trouble.
Of course, amongst the thousands of children turned away, only a handful may follow the Jamie Vardy model and start at the bottom of the ladder, but the game simply does not do enough to acclimatise children to surroundings outside of football. Of all the 1.5m boys and girls who participate in organised youth football, only 180 will play Premier League football - a 0.012% success rate, which is simply not good enough.
In stark contrast to those who are told that they do not have what it takes, there are players who are perhaps too good for academy football, and are itching to get called into their respective clubs' first team. Manchester City and England starlet Jadon Sancho falls into the latter category, although his actions, at such a young age, may just be as ill-advised as those who fall into the academy football gutters.
The 17-year-old, who recently won Player of the Tournament at the U17 European Championships in May, is regarded as one of the most precocious young talents in Europe, with heavyweights such as Arsenal, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund all vying for his signature.
Sancho has the world at his extremely talented feet, although following this summer's tournament, he has raised question marks over his attitude, which in itself is a vital feature in any aspiring footballer.
Upon returning from Croatia as a European Championship runner-up this summer, the former Watford academy boy was dismayed at finding out from Pep Guardiola that he would not be joining his fellow youth teammates Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz on the club's tour of the United States, prompting an unprofessional reaction from the youngster.
Sancho has since refused to turn up for training for the Manchester club, and has told teammates that he is looking for a move back to London and has no intention of signing the lucrative £30k per week professional contract offer put on the table at the Etihad.
To put this into perspective, a 17-year-old, who is yet to make a senior appearance in football, is going on strike and being offered £30k a week, all before actually making any significant inroads in the world of football. Quite staggeringly, there are experienced professionals plying their trade in the Premier League who earn less than the sum offered to Sancho, which really sums it up.
The youth of English football never prospers because it has everything given to it before it gets the chance to earn it.
In fairness, City's track record of promoting from within doesn't bode well for the likes of Foden, Diaz or Sancho, and Sancho may be fully justified in seeking a move away, but that is not the point.
We as a nation consistently moan at the lack of genuinely world class, homegrown youngsters coming out of England, without being fully aware of the situation. For all we know, we could have had our very own Iniesta, Neymar or Messi nestled in the academy of one of our clubs, the only difference being that our prodigies have had all the drive and motivation sucked from them at an early age through an irresistible pay packet that they simply cannot turn down.
Something must change, for the sake of our country's footballing future and the youngsters embroiled in it.