Jadon Sancho proving himself to be in the same league as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

Prolific Dortmund star has turned even more heads with his first hat-trick and a big move is likely to follow

Cristiano Ronaldo was approaching his 23rd birthday when he scored the first-hat-trick of his senior career.

There have been more than 50 since for the evergreen CR7. Lionel Messi was three and half months shy of turning 20 when he registered his first triple for Barcelona, choosing the grandest stage, a clasico against Real Madrid.

As for Neymar, his first senior hat-trick was the work of an 18-year-old though, crucially, he was already taking penalties for his club, Santos, by then. Neymar would be 20 before he carried home a match ball that had not been partly earned via a spot-kick.

Jadon Sancho can take note. He is only just 20, and might argue that his milestone, maiden hat-trick - one with the right foot, one with the left, and then a winning, one-on-one duel with the goalkeeper - was delayed by circumstances beyond his control.

Sancho struck his three goals in one half, against Paderborn on Sunday, and if the 6-1 scoreline, and the opposition's berth at the foot of the Bundesliga's first division, suggests this was a waltz, recall that there were no goals in the opening 45 minutes.

Sancho was making his first League start for Dortmund since February, injury and the long pause in the calendar having extended his time without a full 90 minutes of action. Sunday was a pointer to his club: Dortmund are almost always stronger with Sancho on the field.

That is a slightly uncomfortable truth for Germany’s second-best club to acknowledge because, assuming the next transfer window follows something like a normal pattern, Sancho is likely to be soon accepting a major offer to move elsewhere.

It could perhaps be to his native England, and a Premier League heavyweight, perhaps to one of Spanish football’s two grandees, the Barcelona of Messi, or the Real Madrid where Ronaldo established himself as a man of habitual hat-tricks.

Hat-tricks make headlines but, on a day Sancho described as “bittersweet”, he also caught attention for other reasons.

His first goal, a smooth tap-in, was marked by the player revealing a message on his undershirt, 'Justice for George Floyd', in support of Floyd, the black American who died last month in police custody, and whose treatment has provoked widespread protests in the US.

PADERBORN, GERMANY - MAY 31: Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund battles for the ball with Dennis Srbeny and Jamilu Collins of Sport-Club Paderborn during the Bundesliga match between SC Paderborn 07 and Borussia Dortmund at Benteler Arena on May 31, 2020 in Paderborn, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Sancho was yellow-carded for the gesture; the global public health crisis has altered what footballers have to wear - masks on entering stadiums - but the crisis in the States has not changed what they are not supposed to wear: a peeled off club jersey, with political messaging beneath, means a caution.

Sancho has always had an independent spirit. He elected to move to the Bundesliga at 17, firm in his belief that at Manchester City, whose academy he had joined at 14, he would not be given the playing time he wanted.

Dortmund, with their reputation for encouraging young footballers, seemed an attractive destination, provided Sancho rose to all the extra challenges of moving abroad, to a new league, in a new language.

English footballers have a notoriety for struggling with those challenges. The reputation may be unfair, but it sticks, or at least it had done until Sancho began to delight the Bundesliga with his confidence, his inventiveness on the ball, his ease attacking from either wing, and his generosity as a creator of space and precise set-ups for teammates.

He has left quite a legacy for compatriots. The likes of Reiss Nelson (formerly at Hoffenheim), Rabbi Matondo and Jonjoe Kenny (now at Schalke 04) and Ademola Lookman and Ethan Ampadu (at RB Leipzig) are among the young British players who have followed Sancho to the German top flight, most of them citing Sancho as their Pied Piper, the pathfinder who showed the way.

His precociousness has been startling. Another landmark passed at the weekend was his 30th Bundesliga goal. Nobody has reached that total younger than Sancho, at 20 years, two months and six days old.

FILE  - In this Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020 file photo, Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Eibar at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. panish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced Saturday, May 23, 2020 that the soccer league in Spain will be allowed to resume from June 8.  While the top tier, La Liga, can play from this date, it has already said it wants to resume play on June 12. It is unclear when the first games will be held. There has been no play in the top tier since March 12 due to the coronavirus crisis. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort, File)

Now add all those assists to his 34 club goals in all competitions - 43 in his 99 matches for Dortmund. This season alone he has scored or set up 40 Dortmund goals.

And here’s a telling point of comparison: Messi, at Sancho’s age, had scored 26 goals for Barcelona and assisted eight. Granted, injuries meant Messi had, at 20, played 29 fewer matches than Sancho has, but the overall impact-per-game statistics still have Sancho ahead.

“We would dearly like Jadon to stay,” said Hans-Joachim Watzke, the Dortmund CEO, last month, about the England international's future.

“You also have to understand any wishes the player might have. But we do know his value. Any clubs thinking they can come here and pick up a bargain because of the global situation will be making a mistake.”