EXCLUSIVE: Raheem Sterling talks happiness for Jadon Sancho and why Man City star enjoys playing for England

Alam Khan - Reporter 01:00 19/03/2019
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  • Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho

    Raheem Sterling says Jadon Sancho’s decision to play in Germany reminded him of himself as he backed his young England team-mate to achieve “big things”.

    The pair were together at Manchester City until Sancho made a surprising, yet bold move to Borussia Dortmund in 2017 after rejecting a professional contract with Pep Guardiola’s outfit.

    To leave City was deemed a gamble at the time, but the winger has shone in the Bundesliga to the extent he now has three caps for his country and is tipped for the very top.

    For Sterling, that focus and ambition was a flashback to earlier in his career when he left QPR, and his London home, for Liverpool at 15 and made his debut for England at 17.

    “First day I’d seen him training with us, I was really happy to see such a talent,” the 24-year-old said of Sancho, who turns 19 next week.

    “I always knew he’d become the player he has, for sure. From minute one. I was playing right back against him one day in pre-season training and he spun me back and I nearly did my back in. He’s a great talent.

    “When he first mentioned to me he was thinking about going abroad, even though he was a City player, I was happy to hear that from him. To see that confidence, it reminded me of myself when I went to Liverpool.

    “To have a couple of London teams and Liverpool to go to, I chose the further option, to have the time out away from my friends. So when he said that to me about going, I knew he had a massive chance to go on to do big things.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s about being scared or frightened in taking a risk, but being mainly content, mainly at ease, and he’s gone on and taken a step forward.

    “I’m just really happy to see him doing so well. He’s doing massive things and I hope he stays level headed and keeps working and keeps learning.”

    Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho

    Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho

    Sancho’s rise has seen his value rocket to £100 million with Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid linked with a summer bid.

    England boss Gareth Southgate sees Sterling, who became the country’s most expensive player in 2015 when he joined City for £49m, as a perfect role model for Sancho.

    In his side’s forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro, Sterling, with 47 caps, will also be their most senior player.

    Having had to deal with the expectation, pressure and scrutiny on and off the field since making his mark at the top level, Sterling is keen to help guide the talented teen on his exciting journey.

    “I want to be like him,” laughed Sterling as he told Sport360 exclusively about being an inspiration to Sancho. “He’s a great talent and I’m just really happy for him.

    “Off the field he is a top lad, and that’s the one thing I try to correct him on, off the field, because he’s a great person, just try to help him with advice. But on the field, be as arrogant as you want.

    “On the field you don’t need to be level headed. For me, he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and think the best of his ability because that ability can take him all the way to the top.”

    Southgate has been impressed by Sterling’s growing maturity and ability on and off the field.

    Despite being criticised and not scoring at last year’s World Cup, where England finished fourth, Southgate sees him as a key player in their bid for success at Euro 2020, the Nations League – where they face the Netherlands in the semi-finals this summer – and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

    Sancho and Sterling on duty for England

    Sancho and Sterling on duty for England

    “That’s the ultimate, lifting a trophy with England,” said Sterling. “But we don’t want to get too carried away with ourselves.

    “We still have to work hard, keep working and with the players that we have now and coming through, we have a massive chance.

    “We had a great World Cup campaign, but hopefully we can do better. We came so close to winning it, and I was confident we could win it.

    “I had seen how we had gone through, how we were playing and even if I didn’t score, that was the most important thing for us.

    “Forget about me on a personal term, to see the country go far in the competition after so long, I was happy to be a part of it and to play a part.

    “The next World Cup in Qatar is a long way away, but all I can do until then is get better, grow as a person, grow as a player, and when that comes around, to think about that at that moment.”

    Gareth Southgate and Raheem Sterling

    Gareth Southgate and Raheem Sterling

    Southgate’s input will be crucial towards that, having revived an England team that disappointed at the 2016 European Championships.

    With 19 goals for a City side still in contention for four trophies this season, Sterling admits similarities for club and country.

    “It’s two different teams, two different managers, but both teams enjoy working for the managers and the ideas they have,” he added.

    “He’s (Southgate) been massive, not just for me, but for everybody. He came into the England set up and had a massive impact on all of us; a happy camp, tactics, having a real togetherness and he’s been a joy to work with.

    “When I go with England it’s really enjoyable. As I keep stressing the manager makes it that and we are enjoying our football.”