Sunday 20 November 2016, 11:51

Sansone: I dream of holding the Tricolore at the World Cup

Nicola Sansone has revealed he rejected the chance to represent birth country Germany because he feels Italian, and his dream of playing at the FIFA World Cup™.

The Villarreal winger was born in Munich, to Italian parents, and joined Bayern Munich’s youth ranks as a 10-year-old. He was approached about playing for Germany at youth level, but was uninterested and instead turned out for Italy at every level from U-17 to U-21. Sansone made his senior Azzurri debut in 2015 and his competitive one in the recent 3-2 win in FYR Macedonia in Russia 2018 qualifying.

“Germany did propose calling me up at U-15 and U-16 level, but I always turned them down because I feel Italian,” the 25-year-old told Corriere dello Sport. “Now my dream is to play at the World Cup. When an Italian plays abroad, he always has more responsibility to hold the Tricolore flag aloft.”

Italy are second in Group G in European qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, behind Spain on goal difference and above Israel by a point.

Realising the Ronaldo dream Sansone, whom Giampiero Ventura sent on in the final minutes of Italy’s 0-0 friendly draw with Germany on Tuesday, left Sassuolo for Villarreal earlier this year. The persuading factors for the player were a friend and a hero.

“As a kid, I played in Munich with Bruno Soriano, we never lost contact and now we’re together at Villarreal,” explained Sansone. “We’re great friends. The idea of playing in Spain was always intriguing, and on the day of negotiations, Soriano told me to come.

“So far, it seems as if it was a good decision. My first few games were difficult, because in Spain, it’s a less tactical style of football and more intense, but at least there’s less pressure.

“One of the reasons I decided to come to Spain was to play against my idol, Cristiano Ronaldo. When I shook his hand, I was smiling like a child. I asked for his jersey, but he was angry that we held Real Madrid to a draw. However, he promised me he would exchange shirts next time.”