Teenager Sancho has become a first-team regular in Germany since leaving Manchester City and will be back in London to face Spurs at Wembley on Wednesday
“My friends in Kennington always ask me: ‘Can I have a shirt for my little brother or my cousin?’ And I always send them shirts,” says Jadon Sancho. “I will never forget where I have come from because I know what it is like growing up in that area … it is not nice. Especially when you have people around you doing bad things.”
More than a month away from celebrating his 19th birthday, the first player born this millennium to represent England and a trailblazer for his generation is holding court at Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion. Dressed in a turquoise green tracksuit and immaculate matching trainers, the unassuming Sancho does not come across as the most coveted teenager in world football as he makes a point of shaking hands with every journalist around the table with the greeting, “nice to meet you”. Clearly at ease in his surroundings in western Germany as he prepares for his return to London to face Tottenham in the Champions League on Wednesday, he is taller and broader in the shoulders than this time last year; something the makers of the Fifa video game may want to take note of. “I am stronger than it says,” he says, laughing. The boy from the Guinness Trust Buildings estate who left home at 12 has now become a man.
“For the kids that are in south London I hope I can give a positive message,” he adds, intently. “Don’t do those bad things. You don’t have to be footballers. You could focus on your school work. Education is the most important thing and a lot of kids in south London get distracted from education.”
Had he not been blessed with a talent with the ball that convinced his headteacher at Crampton primary school he was destined to be a star when she first saw him as a five-year-old, Sancho knows his story could have turned out very differently. Eight goals – including the brilliant finish from a tight angle in Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim – and nine assists in the Bundesliga this season have allowed Lucien Favre’s vibrant young Dortmund side to dream of winning a first title since 2012. His bold decision to reject a new contract with Manchester City worth £30,000-a-week and move to Germany in search of first-team football is proving a masterstroke.