Sancho for Malen the epitome of Man Utd's transfer stupidity

Stuart Telford
Stuart Telford
  • 8 Dec 2023 17:25 GMT
  • 4 min read
Jadon Sancho and Donyell Malen
© ProShots

Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund are reportedly readying a swap deal involving Jadon Sancho and Donyell Malen. It could be yet another mis-step in the Red Devils shocking recent transfer history…

Sancho is clearly a dressing room problem at United, one who publicly defied manager Erik ten Hag in September and had previously failed to live up to his billing anyway - 12 goals and six assists from 83 games were not the return on €85 million United would have hoped for.

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On the face of it, Sancho for Malen could be an elegant swap. The players have similar transfer values per FootballTransfers' in-house algorithm - Sancho now tagged at €33.2m and Malen €35.4m - and they occupy similar positions in the final third.

Sancho would be returning to the club where he played his best football, and former Arsenal academy players Malen would get another crack at Premier League football after three years in the Bundesliga, which were preceded by four back in his native Netherlands.

But United would be losing the better player, even if he has underperformed at Old Trafford.

Sancho's higher ceiling

A quick mine of their stats shows just as much. Sancho's direct goal-involvements at United have come in at a rate of one every three games he has played, significantly down from his one inside every single match he played for Dortmund, but not a harrowing return.

Malen's goals and assists at Dortmund have been contributed at a rate of one every game-and-a-half.

The Dutchman has never scaled the same heights as his English counterpart at the Signal Iduna Park. Sancho's best season there was in 2019/20, when he hit 17 goals and assists in 32 Bundesliga games; Malen's most prolific was nine and seven of each last term.

The 'Bundesliga tax' may or may not be legitimate - Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and Son Heung-min have certainly done alright since swapping Germany for England - but there is no avoiding the fact the Premier League's UEFA coefficient is three places and nearly 19 points better than the Bundesliga's.

And even if Malen's output didn't decline at the same rate as Sancho's, goals and assists aren't the only yardstick by which to measure them.

Sancho's 5.23 shot creating actions per 90 minutes played put him in the top 11th percentile Europe wide among players in his position over the last year. Malen's 3.55 are only the top 57th percentile.

Sancho's pass completion is 83.5 per cent, Malen's is 74.5 per cent. Even when it comes to defending from the front, Sancho makes an average of 1.92 blocks per game, putting him int the 99th percentile, while Malen's 0.61 put him in the 71st.

Sancho's highest expected transfer value was €108.7m in his previous pomp; Malen's has only ever topped €48.8m.

If United swap Sancho for Malen they will lose a player who has defied Ten Hag and gain one who might relish working under his compatriot. But Sancho's ceiling is higher, as he has proven throughout his career.

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