The return of the Bundesliga gave fans across the world the chance to watch Jadon Sancho, perhaps the most in-demand player on the planet, in action once more.
With a price tag of over £100m slapped on his head, fans of all his suitors have been tuning in in the hope of catching the 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund man at his dominant best, but things haven't exactly gone according to plan since football returned.
Sancho is yet to start a game or even play more than the 45 minutes he managed against Bayern Munich, in which he proved powerless to stop his side from dropping even further behind in the title race.
Given his failure to perform in perhaps the biggest game of his season, Sancho has attracted plenty of criticism from trigger-happy fans who don't believe the Englishman is worth anywhere close to that £100m+ fee anymore.
That judgement is a little premature - let's not act like starring against Bayern is an easy task - but there's no denying that Sancho hasn't been himself in recent weeks.
The thing is, when literally every eye in the football world is on you, there's only two ways things can go: you either live up to expectations, or you fail. Unfortunately for Sancho, he's falling into that second category right now. 'Right now', of course, being 'over a ten-day span when loads of people are watching him for the first time'.
While some are bashing his talent, it's important to note that Sancho is not playing at full fitness. A calf injury has stopped him from playing more or even taking part in intense training sessions, and the impact of that on his body is clear.
Sancho looks sluggish and off the pace, and he doesn't exactly look in the best physical shape of his life right now. It's a struggle which every footballer will face at one point in their careers, but Sancho gets the added bonus of dealing with that while trying to justify his £100m value in front of every single fan in the entire world.
Fans are seeing Erling Haaland and Julian Brandt turn up for Dortmund, while Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are shining for RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen respectively. Of all those in-demand stars, Sancho has been the odd one out.
Sancho moving slower than my nan— Eduardo Hagn (@EduardoHagn) May 26, 2020
When your entire game relies on speed, agility and acceleration, losing all three is a real problem, and that's what Sancho is realising.
Not only will Sancho be putting pressure on himself to get back to his best, but he also has to deal with the taunts and criticism from fans – albeit now...in the stadium. The pressure is building and building, and until he gets back to full fitness, disproving the critics will be nearly impossible.
Teammate Thomas Delaney recently suggested that Sancho was feeling the weight of all that expectation, although the Dane did correctly state that Sancho doesn't need to prove himself to anyone anymore.
Things seem to be moving in the right direction for Sancho. His minutes have been slowly growing and his involvement in training is stepping up, but with only one month of the season remaining, will Sancho have enough time to shine before the transfer window opens?
Haaland's absence this weekend means Sancho might be forced into a leading man role, and could turn all of this around with a single performance.
But pressure has a cruel way of mounting, and only Sancho can stop it.
Source : 90min