Champions League

Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho looking for Wembley redemption in Champions League final

Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho looking for Wembley redemption in Champions League final

Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho is the first to admit “it’s kind of crazy” the way his season has panned out.

The 24-year-old mercurial winger has played a key part in the German team’s unlikely journey to the Champions League final after he was loaned from Manchester United in January – with Die Schwarzgelben now on the cusp of winning their second European Cup on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.

“I’m thankful for the team and the staff for welcoming me back. So, you know, it’s a nice moment,” Sancho said in an extensive, exclusive sit-down interview with CNN Senior Sport Analyst Darren Lewis in Dortmund earlier this week.

“To be fair, it felt surreal. Again, it still hasn’t hit me. I’m sure in the next couple of days probably when we travel to London, that’s when it’s gonna hit me properly.

“I’m a type of person that I don’t like making new friends. I’ve got a big thing on trust – it’s hard for me to trust people. But I think growing up in South [London], that’s what you’re just taught, it’s like one big family … That’s why I feel like I connect so much with Dortmund.

“It’s kind of crazy, you know, I don’t think anyone would have expected this – me being in the Champions League final, especially where I came from. I’m just happy.”

The final at Wembley is a homecoming for the English star. He came from humble beginnings in Camberwell, south London, and played cage football on the Kennington Council estate.

The 2024 Champions League final is a homecoming for Londoner Sancho. – Franco Arland/Getty Images

The chance to win the biggest prize in club soccer on hallowed ground is something that motivates him, but Wembley is a place and memory that still slightly haunts him. Sancho – along with Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford – missed a spot-kick during the penalty shootout in the 2020 European Championship final, leading to a barrage of racist abuse on social media following England’s loss to Italy.

“This is still something that’s in my head sometimes. I don’t think I’ve fully recovered yet on that part, but I’m trying my best to get over that,” Sancho admitted to CNN Sport.

“The backlash we got from it, it wasn’t nice. Being in London, not in a million years I would have thought that we would have received [that], especially representing our country. It’s a memory I try to block, but, you know, I can’t act like it didn’t happen. So this is one of those memories that you got to try to get past it and be positive.”

Sancho, though, said he’d still be confident taking an important penalty, pointing to one he scored for United in the FA Cup semifinal last season against Brighton.

And he looks to be hitting form at exactly the right time.

Sancho proved a constant threat against PSG throughout the two legs of the Champions League semifinal. – Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

He was sensational during the semifinal clash against Paris Saint-Germain, putting on a show in front of Dortmund’s famed “Yellow Wall” in the first leg as he completed 12 dribbles. The last player to better that mark in the Champions League? Lionel Messi.

“To be behind him is such an honor. What he’s done in the game is outstanding,” said Sancho when talking about his accomplishment.

However, ask Sancho who he considers to be the greatest player of all time and he points to his former United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently became the first player to be the top scorer in four different leagues.

“He’s the ‘GOAT’ (Greatest of All Time) – what can I say? He deserves it. His dedication to the game is unmatched. You know, always in the gym, always just wanting to be better,” Sancho said.

“I had the pleasure to play with him. What a great guy he was for all the young players on the team. I learned so much from him. I’m just happy that I got to assist him against Tottenham, actually, one of his goals, and he got a hat-trick. So yeah, that was definitely a dream come true. You know, just watching him, idolizing him.”

This weekend, Sancho will come up against old friend Jude Bellingham, who helped look after him in Germany when his fellow Englishman joined the Black and Yellow four years ago.

Bellingham and Sancho celebrate after winning the German Cup against RB Leipzig at the Olympic Stadium on May 13, 2021, in Berlin. – Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund/Getty Images

Sancho is eager to play against the Real Madrid superstar, who was recently named La Liga Player of the Season, and said that Bellingham is one of the best players in the world right now, alongside Vinícius Jr., Kylian Mbappé and England captain Harry Kane.

“Harry Kane due to the goals he scored and I think if he’d [have] won trophies this year, he would have definitely won the Ballon d’Or,” Sancho said of his countryman who stars for Dortmund’s domestic nemesis Bayern Munich.

“Vinícius and Jude, they are both fighting right now [to see] who can win [the Ballon d’Or]. Obviously, they are very close friends, so I’m not saying they are fighting, but they definitely could win it.

“Mbappé has had an excellent season again, if he won [the Champions League or the European Championships], he would be in the conversation.”

On the widely expected and potential prospect of seeing Mbappé play for Los Blancos, Sancho told CNN: “Mbappé gives goals, gives assists. He’s a threat to any team in the world. So, you know, to have Vinícius, Mbappé, Bellingham and Rodrygo all on the same team – it’s scary. It’s very scary.”

While all signs point towards a European soccer dynasty forming in the Spanish capital, if Dortmund was to beat the 14-time Champions League winner and press pause on the new era, it would be the stuff of dreams for Sancho – and perhaps the most meaningful way to overwrite those painful Wembley nightmares as the England star looks set to pen the next chapter of his career.

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