The long awaited departure of Jadon Sancho to Manchester United may actually end sometime soon, perhaps. The very next question that needs answered is how do Borussia Dortmund replace Jadon Sancho? Actually, BVB may even choose not to replace Jadon Sancho at all, but rather utilize players that are already at the club to make up the absence. However, one should feel very underwhelmed about the possibility of Die Schwarzgelben simply giving more minutes to the likes Reinier (should he return), Julian Brandt (should he stay), Ansgar Knauff (should he be ready), and Thorgan Hazard (should he stay healthy), all of which pose more questions than answers. Dortmund were fortunate enough to have a healthy Marco Reus this season, and one should not bet on that happening again. Even Giovanni Reyna, as good a prospect as he is, is still only 18 years old and may be prone to another rollercoaster campaign the likes of which Dortmund cannot afford if he is to fill Sancho’s boots each week. It would feel like a huge gamble with Dortmund’s season not to invest some money in a new winger for the upcoming campaign given the circumstances surrounding the aforementioned players. So who should Dortmund look to bring in? Enter Leon Bailey.
Why Leon Bailey?
Of the players who are of the caliber to replace a Jadon Sancho immediately, one will probably not find another player that is potentially available in Dortmund’s price range better than Bailey. Most wingers that are statistically in Sancho’s realm of excellence are already at bigger or similar size clubs. With only two years remaining on his deal, Bailey looks primed for a move. Having been linked with a move to Chelsea FC a couple of years ago, and Tottenham Hotspur more recently, Bailey is definitely looking at moving on to a bigger club. In fact, it almost feels like the perfect transfer given that Bailey is Bundesliga proven, has played in the Champions League, and is still very young himself at 23 years old. A move from Leverkusen to Dortmund also makes for a much easier transition on the player given that the two clubs are Ruhr neighbors and have conducted transfer business several times over the years. Julian Brandt, Sven Bender, and Ömer Toprak have all been transferred between the two clubs in the past 4 years.
According to fbref.com, Bailey finished the 2020-21 campaign with 15 goals and 10 assists in 40 appearances across all competitions, including 33 starts. Meaning Bailey registered .8 goals or assists every 90 minutes in all competitions, which does fall short of Sancho’s 1 goal or assist every 90 minutes in all competitions. However, when we look at expected goals Bailey and Sancho come in at .62 and .61 per 90 respectively, meaning Sancho overperformed and Bailey underperformed. Now, that could be down to Sancho having a higher level of quality in regard to final passes and finishing, or it could be Bailey was a bit unlucky compared to his competitor. Nevertheless. Bailey stacks up well where it counts when we look at goal and assist contributions.
The difference between the two wing players can be seen in their passing, as Sancho completes a remarkably better amount of short and medium passes in comparison to Bailey. However, Bailey seems to be putting in far more crosses, which probably has to do more with playing style and tactical demands. Sancho once again comes up aces when we look at shot creation, as the Englishman creates 5.33 per 90, whereas Bailey comes in at just under 4 shots created per 90. Of course, if Bailey has the likes of Marco Reus and Erling Haaland instead of his current teammates, I could see that number rising for the Jamaican.
Another large factor of wing play is dribbling, and Bailey actually surpasses Sancho in this category, albeit slightly. Bailey completes nearly 59% of his dribbles while Sancho checks in at 56%, meaning Bailey’s ability to ease past defenders in open play is slightly superior to Sancho’s. Bailey is also a bigger threat in both boxes, winning nearly 38% of his aerial duals compared to Sancho who only wins 18%. While aerial ability is not usually a big deal for a winger, given Dortmund’s struggles with set pieces, anything would help.
Since 2019, Leon Bailey has scored 4 goals against Bayern in 7 matches including a brace in this phenomenal performance at the Allianz Arena last season issuing Hansi Flick his first loss as Bayern coach.
Bailey’s electric pace in the final third is something BVB could really use to help stretch defenses, and that is exactly how Bailey carved apart Bayern in the highlights above. Bailey also showed off his free-kick ability against the Bavarians in another famous Leverkusen win against the rekordmeister, this time equalizing for Die Werkself who would go on to win 3-1 at the BayArena.
As one can see, Bailey loves playing against Bayern, and Dortmund could use a player who steps up his game during Der Klassiker as the black and yellow brigade have struggled to get anything from that fixture over the past couple seasons.
In 2017, Dortmund sold Ousmane Dembele to FC Barcelona for a fee that could buy a small country. With a short window to work with, BVB re-invested €25M euros on Andriy Yarmolenko from Dynamo Kiev of the Ukrainian Premier League. Most of us probably remember watching the highlight reel of the “stepover king” from Ukraine glide by defenders, but it just never happened for Yarmolenko at the Westfalenstadion. Looking back now, it is easy to see that a 27 year-old winger from a small league was probably going to struggle at a club the size of Dortmund. Which is why signing a young player from inside the league makes much more sense. The Dortmund board will need to be careful this time with how they re-invest this money given the strains on finances from the loss of supporters in the stadium. Yet, should the BVB bosses get this right, it will setup the club for a strong sporting season while boasting a solid financial position as well.
Leon Bailey is not Jadon Sancho, nor should any Dortmund fan fully expect to replace the prodigious English winger. Nevertheless, Bailey would add similar qualities to the squad and few new ones that perhaps Dortmund could use to topple Bayern. Prying Bailey from Leverkusen would most likely mean a Dortmund record fee, but with a plethora of attackers in their ranks, another season without Champions League, and his contract winding down, Leverkusen should be looking at moving on from the Jamaican. Transfermarkt currently rates Bailey’s value at €38.5M euros, which sounds like a fair price for all of those involved. A bid of around €35-40M euros is still less than half of what is expected from the sale of Sancho, and that would be a reasonable re-investment from both the clubs perspective, and of the supporters.
Would Bailey be a good replacement when Sancho departs?