Jadon Sancho is reaping the rewards of taking the path less followed, with the talented Borussia Dortmund teenager calling his England call-up the “biggest thing that could ever happen to a young kid like me”.
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.
It is just reward for his displays after making the courageous – if at the time slightly controversial – move from Manchester City to Dortmund last summer.
“It means a lot to me, especially my family,” the 18-year-old said.
“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.
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.
“Everyone’s introduced me nicely,” the Londoner said. “It’s a nice vibe over there.
“I’m learning German, of course. It’s going alright, it’s a bit difficult. I’ve still got a long way to go!”
Sancho has time to hone his linguistic skills after last week signing a new deal with Dortmund until 2022 but living abroad brings challenges for a young player.
“Obviously moving from home, that was the biggest,” he said.
“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 move from Watford to City helped prepare him 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 performance 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, 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.”