When he pulls on an England shirt, Sadou Diallo still has to pinch himself.
Moving to Yorkshire as a child, he never dreamed while playing football on the streets of Rotherham that one day he would represent the Three Lions.
“I never expected to hear from England,” Sadou revealed. “Coming to City was big enough and when England came in I was just like – whoa, that was my reaction. I had to take a step back and just see how lucky I was.
“I have a lot of friends in Africa who want to be in my situation right now. It’s a pleasure and honour to play for England.”
The young midfielder was born in Guinea but settled in Rotherham with his Mum when he was eight years old.
Scouted by the Millers and later offered a place in City’s Academy, he didn’t hesitate to further his footballing education under the guidance of experienced coaches in world class surroundings.
A student of the City philosophy since the age of 13, he admits that every day is a learning experience at a club constantly investing money and time into young players – on and off the field.
Said Diallo: “It was an easy decision to move because I’d seen City play before and their plans for the Academy were amazing. It’s a bigger club and it was a big chance for me to get better, because the coaches are so good here.
“Being at the CFA is a learning curve, I learn every day. We’re at a world-class facility with some of the best coaches in the world.
"I used to play just how I wanted to but now I understand tactics, and why we play in certain ways. It’s a constant learning thing.”
A dangerous midfielder who can dictate play from the no.6 or no.8 position, the England youth international prefers to play a box-to-box role, combining defensive duties with a creative spark.
Happy to take to the field further back as a midfield anchor when the occasion requires, Sadou asserts that it’s impossible for him to select any particular game as a standout after the amount of fun he’s had on the pitch in City blue.
“When I first came to City we won a lot of tournaments and I’d never done that before so it’s hard to pick one favourite. I enjoy it every time!” smiled the Academy starlet.
“Obviously I can still remember my debut - it was against Liverpool and I got sent off! I did this tackle and the ref gave me a red. At that moment I was quite frightened, I thought I wasn’t doing well and I wanted to go home! But obviously things change if you keep going, keep working hard and listening to what the coaches say, and now I’m here which is amazing.”
His blend of natural talent and committed work ethic won Sadou eight appearances for Jason Wilcox’s u18 squad late term while still a schoolboy – the highest number by anyone in his year group.
His own harshest critic, Sadou was unhappy with his display on his u18s debut, but after adjusting his style to compete against more physically mature opponents, the adopted Yorkshireman approached his first year as a scholar with confidence.
Speaking about his u18s debut, he remembered: “I was nervous and excited because I wanted to show Jason I was good enough to play. I don’t think my first game went that well to be honest, so he must have seen me doing well in the u16s and believed in me.
“That was a big thing for me because it means he trusts me.”
Diallo signed a two-year scholarship deal with the club last July, a momentous step in the life of any teenager hoping to one day make a career in the professional game.
For players and their families, it remains a crucial milestone they crave, but the City youngster is the first to point out it just means the start of more hard work ahead.
“When I found out, it was the best feeling in the world,” he smiled. “I’ve always played football and always wanted to go pro, so when I was offered a scholarship it felt like I’d made it to my dream.
“Obviously, I know I haven’t and there’s such a long way to go and a lot of work to do, but right in the moment when I heard that’s how big the news felt. I told my Mum first, I’m really close to her. She cried. She’s really proud of me.”
Looking ahead, Sadou is determined to make the most of his first year in full time football: “This season my aims are to win the u18 league and FA Youth Cup and to do well personally within the team. Hopefully I’ll also get a chance in the u21s, like I did last year to play up with the u18s, that would be great.”
60 seconds with Sadou
Who was your favourite childhood superhero?
If you could only have one superpower, it would be?
To be able to travel back in time. I like knowing things back in history.
If you could be anyone else in the world for one day, it would be?
Right now, Messi. He’s the greatest player of all time.
Where in the world would you most like to visit?
Dubai. It just looks clean and nice.
Worst subject at school?
Maths and French. My first language is Fula, which I speak with my Mum at home. She doesn’t want me to forget it in case I speak to my Grandma because she can’t speak English. But in schools we spoke French.
Last film watched?
The Equaliser, I’ve watched it twice now.
Guilty pleasure (food)?
Sweet things, anything sweet.