While lighting up the Bundesliga in his first full season in the league, Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho has a lot to be happy about when thinking back on his time in Germany so far.
It would be easy for the 18-year-old to get ahead of himself after becoming the youngest player in league history to score eight goals, as well as the youngest player to score a brace for Dortmund. But the Englishman knows that talent alone is not enough to make it as far as he wants to go.
“I’ve seen a lot of young talents just disappear because it’s obviously come too early, and it’s got to their heads,” Sancho told Dortmund’s official YouTube channel. “I’ve seen this and my family have seen this, but luckily enough I’ve got great people around me to just keep me grounded and humble. I’m grateful to have them tell me that what I’m doing is not enough.”
Watch: The story of Jadon Sancho
If what Sancho is doing is not enough, then Dortmund fans will be smiling with joy at the prospect of what is still to come from the silky winger. The England international has scored eight goals and provided a league-high 10 assists so far in 2018/19, with Dortmund in a heated battle with Bayern Munich for the title.
Sancho is the leading light in a season which has seen a host of new young stars break onto the Bundesliga scene. His name is also spreading through Europe, and the Londoner has admitted that watching the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Marcus Rashford is a big motivator for him to go out and perform every weekend, knowing they will be watching him too.
“There are the likes of Mbappe doing crazy things at Paris Saint-Germain, and they’re the kind of people I need to compete with because I’m so young and he’s so young,” Sancho explained.
“That always pushes me when I see Mbappe, Marcus Rashford doing well, because I know they’re probably looking at me and seeing what I’m doing and it’s probably pushing them as well.”
Each young talent brings with him his own unique style of play, and Sancho’s might be the most unique thanks to his streetwise upbringing in the London district of Kennington.
Learning to play football on the streets forced Sancho to learn how to keep close control of the ball, as well as the art of getting out of tight spaces with a checklist of skills. Focusing on what skills you use during a game from the wide range at your disposal might be seen as immature, which Sancho knows, but he also doesn’t want to forget what has made him the player he is today.
Watch: What makes Sancho such an asset for BVB?
“I think street football will never leave me,” Sancho said. “I’ve grown up with this, so I feel like it will always be in me. What I’ve learnt from street football is what I’ve always been doing. I think it will help me go a long way in my career, so it’s a nice thing to have because it’s very different to normal footballers. Street football will always be me.”
Sancho’s very first touch as a Bundesliga player might have been the immediate reality check he needed to tell him that street football wouldn’t be enough to shine in the Bundesliga.
“I remember my first dribble on my debut I got pushed straight to the ground against Eintracht Frankfurt,” Sancho said. “That was kind of embarrassing, but after that I just told myself I need to be more sharp and quicker on the ball, because German football is very hard and you’ve got to keep it moving.”
It may be that something different, though, which becomes the special ingredient Dortmund need to win their first Bundesliga title since 2012. Lucien Favre’s side now sit second behind Bayern on goal difference with nine games to play, with a showdown between the two sides to come on 6 April at the Allianz Arena.
“Bayern are going to keep on pushing, so we have to as well,” Sancho said. “It’s been a tough season - there’s been ups and downs. But, like we always do, after every game we go back to training, recover to 100 per cent, and do everything right. So we have to keep going until the end, and I hope for many more games.”