Tottenham’s Dier relishing Portugal return

England's Eric Dier (left) and Croatia's Luka Modric during the UEFA Nations League match at Wembley

England's Eric Dier (left) and Croatia's Luka Modric during the UEFA Nations League match at Wembley Stadium (pic Nick Potts/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Eric Dier is ready to finally return to Portugal in what will be a “very special” occasion when England play in the Nations League Finals next summer.

The Tottenham midfielder was born in England but moved to Portugal as a seven-year-old and entered the Sporting Lisbon academy.

He spent two seasons in the first team of the 18-time Primeira Liga winners before joining Spurs in 2014 and is now closing in on 200 appearances for the north London club.

Despite playing regularly in the Europa League and Champions League for Tottenham and collecting 38 England caps, Dier has yet to play football back in Portugal.

But England’s 2-1 comeback victory over World Cup semi-final foes Croatia at Wembley on Sunday now presents the 24-year-old with the chance to return ‘home’ for the Nations League final-four tournament in June.

“It will be very special for me,” he said.

“It will be the first time I go back and play there since I left. It’s something I’m looking forward to a lot.

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“It’s a place that is very special to me. It’s my home so I am very happy to go back. It’s been a while.

“There have been a few times I could have got someone in the Champions League or the Europa League but it wasn’t to be.

“But it will be really nice to go back and play against a lot of players I grew up with. That’s always special to experience.”

The Three Lions qualified for the finals courtesy of Harry Kane’s 85th-minute strike against Croatia – with Gareth Southgate’s side facing Nations League relegation up until that point.

Dier admits the scenarios thrown up by the new competition are different but is pleased England have built on a summer of success which saw them reach the semi-final stage of a World Cup for the first time since 1990.

“It is a strange position to be in, in a game where you can end up top of the group, bottom of it or in the middle,” he said.

“It was a strange situation in that sense but we were really just focused on winning the match.

“I think straight after the World Cup the next camp was quite quickly after that and the manager made it clear we could go in two different directions.

“We could settle for what we had done at the World Cup or continue to build something special – we have taken that route and hopefully we can continue to do that and everyone is on board with doing that.

“We want to continue to get better and we believe we can still get a lot better as well.”