Who is Man United-linked Borussia Dortmund star Donyell Malen?

Donyell Malen is Borussia Dortmund’s dangerous forward who left Arsenal without making an appearance… but what would the Dutch star bring to Man United and does a swap deal with Jadon Sancho make sense?

  • Jadon Sancho has been linked with a return to Borussia Dortmund in January
  • The exiled winger has been touted in a potential swap deal with Donyell Malen 
  • Will Marcus Rashford EVER be the real deal? Listen to It’s All Kicking Off 

As the January transfer window approaches, the rumour mill has already started to churn.

Life at Manchester United is never particularly calm with their season plunging to new depths on Tuesday as they crashed out of the Champions League after finishing bottom of Group A.

However, Mail Sport reported this week how despite their struggles, United are expecting a quiet period next month, although there is an acceptance at Old Trafford that Jadon Sancho has to move on.

It’s approaching four months since Sancho last played after falling out with Ten Hag, during which the £73million winger has been training and eating alone at Carrington.

Finding a new club won’t be easy but Mail Sport understands that meetings took place in Germany last Thursday between Borussia Dortmund and representatives of their winger Donyell Malen that may have ramifications for Sancho.

Man United’s season plunged to new depths after they went out of the Champions League

Although they are expecting a quiet January window, exiled star Jadon Sancho is set to leave 

United have been linked with a swap between Sancho and Borussia Dortmund’s Donyell Malen

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Malen has been linked with a move to Old Trafford in a swap that could see Sancho return to his old club, two-and-a-half years after leaving Dortmund. Juventus and Barcelona could also offer him an escape route from United.

Malen is a client of Sports Entertainment Group, run by Ten Hag’s agent Kees Vos, which has been involved in a number of transfers involving United players. The 24-year-old would also be a direct replacement for Sancho on the right wing.

It’s felt that the only way Sancho will stay at United is if Ten Hag is sacked as the Dutchman approaches a crucial run of games. 

Even if Ten Hag survives, it remains to be seen what impact the arrival of Sir Jim Ratcliffe would have on his future – and SEG’s influence at United – in the long run.

But, with a possible swap deal involving Sancho and 24-year-old Malen, Mail Sport takes a look at who the Dutch forward is. 

Malen, who was born on January 19, 1999 in the north west of the Netherlands, joined Ajax as an eight-year-old.

He was highly-rated in the academy and began to attract interest from several top clubs across Europe.

Interestingly, Malen moved to Arsenal in 2015, with the forward explaining he wanted to join the Gunners due to his footballing heroes being club legends Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.

Malen spent time in Arsenal’s youth ranks when but left at the age of 18 without playing a game

Despite having to adapt to a new country and fresh surroundings at such a young age, Malen quickly showed his talent at their Hale End academy. 

He impressed enough to progress through the ranks, with the Dutchman’s 11 goals and four assists in 21 games for the Under-18 side seeing him make an equally strong impact on the Under 21 team.

Malen added seven goals and two assists in 24 appearances and was rewarded with a place on Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Australia and China in 2017.

His performances reportedly caught the eye of then-Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, but soon after Malen departed.

The forward – who was mainly used as a winger in north London – joined Ajax’s rivals, PSV, back in his homeland, with Malen explaining in 2019 that he made the move for the good of his career. 

Speaking to Dutch outlet De Telegraaf, Malen said: ‘That I was sent away from Arsenal is certainly not true. I still had a contract for a year and Arsenal even wanted to extend that.

‘I don’t play football for the money. I never did that. Otherwise I would not have left England.’

He moved onto PSV and shone, scoring 55 goals and adding 24 assists in just 116 matches


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Malen proved to be an astute pick up for the Dutch side as he quickly progressed from Jong PSV – the club’s second team – with 13 goals in 22 games. 

He edged his way into PSV’s Eredivisie’s title-winning team in 2017-18, making four appearances, before Malen really took centre stage over the subsequent three years.

Given Malen had long been touted for success, this was perhaps no surprise but a return of 55 goals and 24 assists in just 116 matches is an astonishing record. 

This stellar form earned him a move to Borussia Dortmund for £25.8m in the summer of 2021.

While he tended to play as a central striker at PSV, Malen has featured mainly as a winger in Germany.

The 24-year-old did endure a settling in period at Signal Iduna Park, with Erling Haaland still the main man for Dortmund during Malen’s first season at the club.

Even then-Dortmund boss Marco Rose admitted as such at the start of the following campaign in 2022 when Malen started impressively.

He had explained: ‘We’ve always said that we’re convinced of his abilities, but it was always clear to us that he needs time to adapt. He has done that very well in the last few weeks.

‘He’s playing with a lot more confidence, asking for the ball more, demonstrating his flair and chipping in in front of goal. Now we have to work to make sure he can keep it up.’

Malen would go onto contribute 10 goals and eight assists that season before he’s added five goals and set up two more so far this campaign.

His total of 24 goals and 16 assists in 74 starts is highly respectable. 

So good was his form last season that he won the Bundesliga Player of the Month in April as Dortmund went so close to winning the title for the first time in 11 years, before they missed out on the final day. 

Malen’s output over the past year has also seen him regain a spot in Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands squad ahead of the Euro 2024 next summer.

Having originally made his debut in 2019, Malen was a regular figure in their run up to and at Euro 2020.

However, during his adaptation period at Dortmund, he lost his place in the team and didn’t make a squad between March 2022 and March 2023, meaning Malen missed out on the 2022 World Cup.

But in March of this year, he was recalled and has since played in nine of the Netherlands’ past 10 games, regularly lining up on either wing. 

After an initial settling in period, Malen has gone from strength-to-strength at Dortmund

His form has seen him recalled by the Netherlands and he’s played in nine of the past 10 games

Malen’s experience in international football is only likely to benefit him and at 24, having already won 28 caps, he is vastly experienced for his age.

It must be acknowledged that his total goal contributions of 40 in 93 appearances for Dortmund is dwarfed by Sancho’s hugely impressive 114 in 137 matches.

However, the fact Sancho has no future at Old Trafford along with Marcus Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho, Anthony Martial and Rasmus Hojlund having a combined four Premier League goals between them this season, a swap deal involving Malen makes sense for United.

For not only does he have high pedigree and potential but at the age of 24, he has several differing footballing experiences that would stand him in good stead for the coming years and a swap deal seems like the best way to rescue the irreconcilable Sancho situation. 

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