Jadon Sancho says being called up by England is the “biggest thing that could ever happen to a young kid” and pledged to make his mark on football like Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic has.
Fresh from signing a new and improved deal until 2022, manager Gareth Southgate doubled down on his focus on youth with his squad selection for the upcoming Nations League double-header away to Croatia and Spain.
Sancho was perhaps the most eye-catching inclusion, with his promising performances in Germany seeing him become the first player born this millennium to be called up by the senior team.
The 18-year-old is reaping the rewards of taking the path less followed, having made the courageous – if at the time slightly controversial – move from Manchester City to Dortmund last summer.
Sancho said: “It means a lot to me, especially my family. When I was a young kid, I always dreamed of obviously playing for my country. That’s the biggest thing that could ever happen to a young kid like me.
“It would be a dream come true (to make my debut against Croatia). I couldn’t ask for anything better than that.
“Obviously I just have to keep on working hard in training and see what the manager does.”
Sancho seemed a little taken aback by the media interest at St George’s Park, but not quite as much as when the call came in from Southgate rather than England Under-21s boss Aidy Boothroyd.
“I was a bit surprised, to be fair, because obviously I’m so young so I have still got a lot to learn,” he said with a smile.
“I’m just grateful that he’s seeing my progress in the Bundesliga and very thankful.”
Sancho politely declined to talk about leaving Pep Guardiola’s City but was forthcoming when it came to life in Germany, expressing gratitude to the Dortmund fans and head coach Lucien Favre.
The teenager is slowly learning German but adaptation to life on the field has been rapid, thanks in no small part to their trust in young players – and advice from the likes of team-mate Pulisic.
“Obviously Christian Pulisic is another young guy, and I learn from him all the time,” Sancho said of the United States international.
“His confidence to just take on players – no matter like whether there are four or five guys around him, he still tries.
“That’s what he tells me off the pitch, ‘you’ve just got to do your thing, that’s why you’re here – you’ve got to make everyone understand you’re Jadon Sancho’. That’s what he said to me.”
Playing alongside the likes of Pulisic, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus makes Sancho “more grounded”, while living with his dad in Dortmund also helps.
The attacking midfielder’s performances have recently been rewarded with a contract extension with the German giants until 2022 but living abroad has brought challenges.
Sancho said: “Obviously moving from home, that was the biggest. Leaving my mum behind and my sisters. I miss them a lot, but I want to do what’s best for me and felt like moving to Germany was the best thing.”
Sancho’s transfer from Watford to City helped prepare him for the mental leap to Germany – a move abroad he would recommend to like-minded players.
There were nerves at first, but Sancho soon settled into life at Dortmund and the number seven shirt vacated by Ousmane Dembele when he joined Barcelona.
Playing for England brings new pressures, though, and his performances have seen a £100million price tag to be mentioned.
“That’s mad!” Sancho said with a laugh when told of that figure. “Woah!
“That’s… I don’t know… I don’t know what to say to that.”
Asked if he felt he would play club football in England again, he said: “I don’t know. It’s the future. You never know what could happen, so we wait and see.”
For now, his focus is on international matters.
Sancho already has a World Cup winners’ medal to his name – even though he had to watch last year’s under-17 final on an internet stream after being called back from India by Dortmund.
Earlier that summer the attacking midfielder won player of the tournament as Steve Cooper’s Young Lions reached the Under-17 European Championship final and the teenager believes that was a “very special group”.
“The growth in England at the moment is crazy,” Sancho added. “There’s a lot of great young players out there.”