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Angel Gomes hails a special influence after landing maiden England Under-21 call

Manchester United v Norwich City – Premier League – Old Trafford
(Image credit: Martin Rickett)

Angel Gomes has praised godfather Nani after his maiden England Under-21 call-up.

Lille star Gomes believes the former Manchester United winger has helped shape him into the person and player he has become.

Nani is a long-time friend of Gomes’ father, former Portugal Under-21 international Gil, and has guided the youngster through the early years of his career.

Nani won four Premier League titles and the Champions League while Gomes was coming through the youth ranks at Old Trafford and inspired the 21-year-old.

“His influence has been massive from when I was younger at United. He was someone I grew up idolising as well,” he said.

“Not just on the pitch but off the pitch. As a young player when you do meet a professional, or when you do know a professional, it can be a bit surreal but he just made everything so normal.

“At the time, I didn’t haven’t an impression of a footballer. He was basically the first footballer I knew personally and, with me, he was amazing and humble and normal and let me know footballers are normal people at the end of the day.

“If anything, he showed me his side off the pitch more than on the pitch. On the pitch, I could watch videos of him but off the pitch was surreal.

“I remember the first time I went to his house. Being a young lad growing up in Salford you don’t really go to mansions, drive down those kind of streets and see all the big houses.

“I was kind of confused to where I was going and when I turned up and he was there it was surreal. I was just asking a load of questions like how can he do the backflip or whatever.

“I was just a young kid. He’d always seen me in the academy so I think for him to see me now playing it’s strange for him because I was just a young kid at his house playing FIFA, just being a kid.”

The Under-21s travel to face Slovenia on Thursday and then Andorra on Monday in their Euro 2023 qualifiers.

Gomes’ form for Lille – last season’s Ligue 1 champions – this term has earned him a call for Lee Carsley’s squad.

And the attacking midfielder insisted he could not dwell on any disappointment after opting to leave Old Trafford at the end of his contract in 2020.

“I wouldn’t say I doubted myself, but there were times when you’d get upset and think back. In football there is no time for that,” he said.

“You are leaving your home and that was the most difficult thing, knowing you are not going to be there any more.

“For me it was getting it out of your head and seeing the new challenge in front and tackling that.”

Meanwhile, PSV’s Noni Madueke and Huddersfield loanee Levi Samuels Colwill are out with injury with Leeds’ Joe Gelhardt and Stuttgart defender Clinton Mola called up from the Under-20s.