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The art of a fresh start: Jadon Sancho and other footballers that took a step back to hopefully get their careers going again 😅


Big money moves won’t always go as planned, even for the superstars. 💔

Jadon Sancho’s return on loan to Dortmund after an underwhelming 2 ½ seasons at Man United demonstrates the sad realities of a young footballer’s career. 😖

Why is it important for struggling players to look to mentally reset in order to get their careers back on track? We look at Sancho’s ongoing example and other examples as we try to answer the question. 👀

Sometimes, taking a step back to eventually take some more steps forward is necessary for certain footballers.

Long-term, it’s the best decision a professional player can ever make once they look back on things.

Short-term, it can be extremely scary.

Imagine coming up the ranks as a teenage sensation. Everyone’s eyes are on you, and you’re not even technically a fully-grown adult yet.

You have an insane amount of pressure on you to succeed on the world’s biggest stage, and even the tiniest mistakes and incorrect decisions can cost you.

Suddenly, you’re no longer rated as highly as you once were.

What do you do now?

In this 39th edition of the Plei newsletter, I explain the art of a fresh start in a sports career, using the examples of Jadon Sancho and other footballers in order to highlight the importance of making sacrifices in order to get back on track as a professional athlete. 👇

⚽ The importance of a reset in a football career

The best players in the world all have their ways of mentally resetting in order to keep it pushing on the pitch and deliver the results that their fans expect them to deliver.

For some, it might be to let out the self-frustration vocally. Other players may re-adjust their shin guards or socks to make themselves feel brand new again after a disappointing play.

I came across a video* recently featuring a professional goalkeeper (I can’t remember for the life of me who it was, it may have been Aaron Ramsdale or Ben Foster). In the video, he was talking about the importance of having certain mini-rituals or queues in place in order to refocus during a match.

*If someone recalls seeing this clip on Instagram or YouTube, please don’t hesitate to reply to this email with the link. 😅

In his case, the keeper said he likes to readjust the straps on his gloves - this sort of reset helps him get his mind back in the game and refocus.

These are more in-game scenarios, though. What about if your time at a club just isn’t going as planned?

Matchday after matchday, you just aren’t performing. Training feels dull. You may even be a bit isolated in the locker room. The fans don’t really cheer you on like they did when you first debuted.

When it gets to this level, and seasons start to pass by, the only realistic option is to leave the club. You’re just wasting precious time at that point.

It may feel awkward to return to the club that you broke onto the scene at, but it’s important to block out the noise as much as possible and simply do what’s right for your career.

That being said, it doesn’t necessarily have to be going back to your ex-suitor - like in Sancho’s case - but going to any other club (whether it’s a downgrade or not) helps.

It’s certainly something that varies case by case. In almost every situation that we’re going to list in the next section, staying at the club and fighting for a spot was never going to be the right choice for these guys.

🌟 Famous examples

Dutch great Dennis Bergkamp is most famous for his efforts on the international stage and, of course, his 11 years at Arsenal where he is a living legend and formed a part of the Invincibles team of 2003/04.

He broke onto the scene with Ajax, where he established himself as a formidable scorer for many years before leaving in 1993.

But did you know he had a two-year stint at Inter Milan?

It was seriously underwhelming, as the forward only managed 11 goals in 52 appearances. At one point, he even had a troubled relationship with the club’s fans.

His club career was single-handedly salvaged after he ditched the Italian giants for the Gunners. The rest is history, as people say.

The next player we’re going to mention is maybe not the best example but hear us out. Carlos Vela.

The Mexican winger may forever be known as a flop in Europe, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he had a bad career. Born in Cancún, a young Vela came up in the Chivas youth ranks before getting scouted by Arsenal in 2005.

Due to work permit issues, he wasn’t able to feature for the North Londoners right away, and he was immediately loaned out to Celta Vigo.

Vela wouldn’t return to Arsenal until 2008 when he was finally granted a work permit, and he would finally begin racking up minutes in England.

Despite a few noteworthy moments for the club, the Mexican would never establish himself as an important player for Arsenal. He finally ditched them in 2012 with a permanent move to Real Sociedad and spent a decent six years with the Basque club.

But the Vela that we all know today is the one that has been tearing up the MLS with Los Angeles FC since 2018. Yes, for a player that had so much potential, ditching Europe for the United States will almost always get you labeled as a flop.

In the grand scheme of things, yes, he never truly established himself at the highest level. But that doesn’t mean that your career is over. Just because you didn’t make it to the very top doesn’t mean you failed. You can still enjoy football and even better, become a legend in the lesser competitive divisions.

Fortunately, Vela decided to do just that with LAFC.

😁 Jadon Sancho is all smiles again!

The most recent example of a situation where a struggling player - for whatever reason - has decided to rewind their career a bit in order to once again take off to the level they should be at.

23-year-old Jadon Sancho is back in Germany repping yellow and black, and we have to admit: his happiness is ridiculously contagious at the moment.

When it was announced that the England international would be heading back to Dortmund on loan, I couldn’t help but be happy for him. All the controversy surrounding his alleged attitude problems aside, there’s just no better scenario for Sancho at the moment.

It was clear for a while already that he had lost his place in the Man United squad, and that was confirmed when the winger was exiled from all first-team facilities by a ruthless Erik Ten Hag.

I don’t know what truly went down between Sancho and Ten Hag. Nobody does. And I’m not trying to get to the bottom of that in this newsletter.

What I do want to make clear, though, is that as a footballer, you have to boast elite off-field decision-making and discipline to be successful. Talent isn’t enough, and Sancho’s situation puts that on full display.

It may seem obvious, but look at how many players have flopped over the years that were once compared to the greats of the beautiful game. It’s not easy by any means.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing Sancho at all. I feel that it would have been much worse if he decided to see it through, stay at Man United and try to somehow work his way back into the squad. It may ultimately paint the picture that Sancho is a quitter and couldn’t make it in one of the biggest clubs in the world, but that’s only because it’s the easier story for the media to run.

In reality, Sancho showed some nerve to return to Dortmund. Whether or not it’s still his intention to fight for his place in United come July is a mystery, but he shouldn’t be pressured to make that choice anytime soon.

Let’s not forget that Dortmund are still in Europe and have PSV as their opponents in the Round of 16 of the Champions League.

What an opportunity for Sancho to prove the haters wrong.

That’s it for the 39th edition of our newsletter! 😅
How did you like it? Let me know by messaging me via email at [email protected] or by sending us a text. 📲
We want to make sure we’re providing the right content to you all, so if you have any interesting football topics that you’d like us to write about, don’t hesitate to send in your requests! 📩

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