There will be plenty of chatter between childhood friends Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson ahead of the meeting of Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim this weekend.
The Londoners have known each other for many years already, with Sancho describing Arsenal loanee Nelson as being “like a brother”. Together with some other English players playing abroad, they have a WhatsApp group which Sancho says has helped the pair drive each other on in Germany.
“We’re always telling each other how many we’re going to score,” Sancho told FourFourTwo magazine. “When we beat Bayern 3-2 [in November], the group went crazy. It’s like being back in London. You go the extra mile.”
Watch: Jadon Sancho targets silverware with Dortmund
The deadly duo should get another chance to impress when league leaders Dortmund host European-chasing Hoffenheim on Saturday. Sancho, who was named the Bundesliga’s Player of the Month for October, earned a new contract earlier this season as well as his first cap for England. In addition to his goals, the 18-year-old also has a league-high nine assists in his second year with Dortmund.
England U21 international Nelson, meanwhile, is second-top goalscorer at Hoffenheim. The 19-year-old, who has made 14 league appearances so far in his first season in German football, took October's Rookie of the Month prize.
South Londoners Sancho and Nelson first encountered each other in 2011, when they combined to help Southwark U11s take the honours at the London Youth Games.
“That was the first time me and Reiss played together,” Sancho told FourFourTwo. “We knew of each other before that, though we’d never met. We were proper close after winning that tournament. We knew we could help each other out in the future.
“South London means everything. It’s where we both grew up and I’ll never forget where I’m from. But being a footballer is also about trying to show kids from Kennington that there’s more out there than just Kennington. Broaden your horizons and you never know what you might be able to achieve.”
The first time Sancho and Nelson could have met on the pitch in Germany was in September, when Christian Pulisic’s late equaliser salvaged a point for Dortmund in a 1-1 draw. Sancho came on in the last half hour of that game, while Nelson was an unused substitute.
Now firmly established with their clubs, the childhood friends could finally come head-to-head in the return match this weekend. They have come a long way from their days as street footballers in England but Sancho - who says Germany has “pushed” him to hone his game – is not yet content with his lot.
“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, but I won’t stop working,” he said. “I’ve got this far, so now is the time to kick on again.”