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Injury scare for Sancho highlights his role in Dortmund turnaround

Jadon Sancho Borussia Dortmund Jadon Sancho - The Canadian Press

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) — For a while after he returned to Borussia Dortmund, Jadon Sancho shrugged off more than four months without playing at Manchester United.

Sancho was back on the field for Dortmund two days after a move he said felt like “coming home,” and he set up a goal. He started the next two games, winning a penalty against Cologne.

But that long lull finally seems to have caught up with Sancho, who has been out of training for much of this week with what coach Edin Terzic said was a problem with his adductor muscle.

Sancho could miss Friday's game at Heidenheim. Terzic said it's simply a matter of being cautious, and so far Dortmund has given no indication it's expected to be a longer-term injury. Terzic linked the muscle problem to Sancho's long spell away from the first team at United, saying it “is not surprising after the long break that he had.”

A return to Germany has breathed new life into Sancho's career, bringing back memories of when he was considered one of English soccer's brightest young stars and worthy of a $100 million fee. He's also helped Dortmund revive its season.

Before Sancho arrived, the team was winless in four Bundesliga games, its domestic league form failing to match bright Champions League group-stage efforts. With Sancho, Dortmund has three wins from three.

But this injury scare shows how quickly he has become important to Dortmund again and raises questions about how fragile his and the club’s turnarounds might be.

A 3-1 win over Bochum on Sunday saw Dortmund overtake out-of-form Leipzig for fourth place and return to the Champions League qualifying spots for the first time since November. One competitor for Sancho's place in the lineup, U.S. midfielder Gio Reyna, is heading out on loan to Nottingham Forest.

What Sancho's promising Dortmund return means for his career at United is far from clear.

His long stint out of the United team was prompted by a rift with manager Erik ten Hag, who claimed Sancho was training poorly, prompting Sancho to say he was being made a “scapegoat.” There's no sign of healing yet in that relationship.

The comments Sancho made on arrival at Dortmund about the club feeling like “home” and how he looked forward to playing “with a smile on my face" were a warmth that was missing from much of his time at United after his $100 million move in 2021.

Sancho's loan does not come with an option for Dortmund to buy him, so he could be heading back to Old Trafford at the end of the season. Dortmund is set to pay an initial 3.5 million euros ($3.8 million) for the loan but the eventual cost depends heavily on bonuses.

Dortmund's turnaround isn't all down to Sancho, of course.

Striker Niclas Füllkrug and winger Donyell Malen have been in good form, too, and 19-year-old English winger Jamie Bynoe-Gittens has an assist in each of Dortmund’s last three games. Still, critics might point out that Dortmund’s three wins have come against teams which all sit 14th or lower in the table.

The next challenge is to keep that momentum going against Heidenheim, a promoted team which is exceeding expectations in 10th and is on a six-game unbeaten run in the Bundesliga. Heidenheim came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 when the teams met in Dortmund in September.


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