Manchester United midfielder Dylan Levitt has gone from being a teenage star training with his Welsh heroes to claiming a starting spot at Euro 2020.
Levitt is used to seeing many big names in football having joined United’s youth system at the age of eight and signed his first professional contract with the club in 2018.
The 20-year-old made his United debut in a Europa League game in Kazakhstan in 2019, but admits it was training with Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and others that bewitched him after the Wales’ success at Euro 2016.
“I was a bit surprised at first,” Levitt said ahead of Wales’ Euro 2020 opener against Switzerland in Baku on Saturday.
“There are a lot of big names at United. But I was watching Wales when I was younger – Bale, Ramsey, Joe Allen, Ashley Williams – and it was crazy (training with them) because they have been at the top for so long, many years.
“Looking at them in 2016, you jump to that level and they try to help you when you get out of it. You try to make a good bond.”
Levitt, who is from Bodelwyddan in North Wales, was a 15-year-old schoolboy when Bale and company reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 in France.
He watched some of those games at school and says he never gets bored if members of the 2016 squad talk about their French adventure.
“It still intrigues me to this day,” said the eight-time cap Levitt. “Growing up watching this team, watching the games in the school hall.
“Every game, if I wasn’t in school, I would watch it with my friends and family.
“I don’t really get tired of it, I just want to do it again.
“Watching these games made me want to be in the next tournament more.”
Levitt made a bet to be part of Wales’ 26-man squad by traveling to Croatia in February after a loan spell at Sky Bet League side One Charlton in the first half of the season did not work.
He joined the 1961 NK Istra until the end of the season and did enough to work his way into Robert Page’s European Championship plans.
“The first part of the season was not too great, I didn’t play too much,” said Levitt, who says he received technical and tactical advice from former United and England midfielder Michael. Carrick, now in the first team. coach at Old Trafford.
“I received an offer from Croatia to go there for four or five months and accepted it.
“It was good for me as a player and as an individual, to save playing time, and I came back more confident.
“I feel like I can adapt to most countries and I don’t mind playing in England or abroad now.
“I knew that if I had stayed in the U23 (United), I wouldn’t have the chance to play in the first team.
“Everyone needs a taste of men’s football, whether it’s in their first or second season (with the U23s) and it was good to go out and have a different experience elsewhere.
“It’s an incredible honor to be part of the squad. If I could step onto this pitch in a major tournament for Wales it would be one of the proudest moments of my life.”
There is a lot of competition for central midfield spots with Allen, Levitt, Ethan Ampadu, Joe Morrell and Matthew Smith vying for the leading roles in this area.
Morrell missed Wales’ final warm-up, the 0-0 draw against Albania on Saturday, with bone bruises, but is fit for Switzerland’s opener.
“I received a little blow that kept me out of the game against Albania,” said midfielder Luton Morrell.
“But we played against France and I really needed a few minutes like everyone else.
“It was good to get out here as soon as possible and acclimatize a bit.
“It’s pretty hot and that’s obviously something we’re going to face in both games here.”