Written By Onyeka Daniel
When Borussia Dortmund announced the signing of a young player from Birmingham for a fee of €25 million plus bonuses making him the most expensive 17-years old, many wondered how a boy of that age could command such fee especially considering his relative lack of experience in top level football. His name is Jude Bellingham and he plays for the English national team.
Jude Victor William Bellingham was born in Stourbridge, West Midlands on the 29th of June, 2003. He first joined Birmingham City as an under-8, going on to become the club’s youngest ever first-team player when he made his senior debut in August 2019, at the age of 16 years.
He would go on to feature prominently for Birmingham before he was snapped up by German side, Borussia Dortmund in the summer transfer window of 2020 and became the youngest ever goal scorer for the club in his first competitive match for the club. Last year, Bellingham was second behind Spanish wonderkid, Pedri in the Golden Boy award and he has grown in leaps and bounds since moving from Birmingham to Dortmund.
At Dortmund, Bellingham shattered and set new records, becoming the youngest Englishman to start a match in the UEFA Champions League, against Lazio, a record previously held by Phil Foden. He is also the youngest goal scorer in any competitive match for Dortmund. Bellingham also became the youngest English player to play at the European Championship when he helped England reach the final of Euro 2020 last summer where they were beaten by eventual winners, Italy on penalties.
According to head coach of Birmingham, Pep Clotet, who gave Bellingham his debut at the club, Bellingham “feels comfortable in midfield, and more comfortable when he can get closer to the opposition box. His amazing display for Dortmund hasn’t gone unnoticed as he has received praises from players, ex-players, coaches, pundits and even oppositions alike.
“Jude’s an outstanding lad,” Marco Rose, the coach of Dortmund said, praising the young lad after witnessing an impressive showing from him during a league game.. “He’s been an ever present for weeks now. He’s in a great frame of mind and gives us so much. He never stops running and just plays so well.” Bellingham’s teammate at Dortmund, Mats Hummels compared him to another young talent that emerged from the club, Mario Gotze.
According to Hummels, Bellingham even surpasses Mario Gotze, who burst onto the scene at Dortmund as an 18-year-old in 2010 and was a success for both club and country even at a tender age. “Mario Gotze was already a magnificent footballer at that age, he took his football very seriously. But Jude is the most mature 18-year-old player I’ve ever seen. He’s already a leader and also one of the most vocal in the team.” He’s a fantastic footballer, and a fantastic guy. I think I’ve told him about 25 times now that I just love him. He’s on his way to the very top, there’s no doubt about that.” Hummel said.
One of the most widely respected coach of our time, Jose Mourinho, who has managed lots of top players in his managerial career and won plenty of trophies was also full of praise for Bellingham, noting that he tried to sign the player when he was the coach of Tottenham Hotspur but was unable to do so and commended Dortmund for their decisiveness in signing him. “While it’s very dangerous to compare players, I do think Bellingham has something of Frank Lampard about him. He defends well as a midfield player but then he has the potential to be offensive.”
“I like him very much. He is a box-to-box player, that old-school profile. I love everything about Bellingham. I can’t believe his age, only 17. The way he plays, the way he brings himself into the game,” Mourinho said of him. Another of his teammate at Dortmund also expressed his awe of Bellingham and his abilities after another excellent performance. This time in the UEFA Champions League against Besiktas where he got a goal and an assist and was voted Man of the match and also set a record, becoming the youngest player to ever score in consecutive Champions League matches, a record previously held by Paris St. Germain forward Kylian Mbappe. He’s amazing,” Haaland said. “He’s only 18, three years younger than me… It’s crazy! What can I say, he’s amazing.”
Bellingham has been deployed across various positions on the pitch, signalling his importance to the team and also the versatility he has added to his game. He has been deployed as a defensive midfielder in a double pivot role, central midfielder in a three man midfield and has also played as a wide midfielder. With his quickness on the ball, positional awareness and physicality, he has had no problem playing any of these roles.
With him playing with and against some of the best players in the world both with the English national team and with Borussia Dortmund, he can be forgiven if he shows some level of arrogance, given the age difference but Bellingham has stayed grounded and humble and this was highlighted by the coach of England, Gareth Southgate in his interview with Independent. “He’s very keen to learn and observe in that regard. That is a process all young players go through and that is why it is so important for us to have good senior players as role models,” Southgate said, praising Bellingham’s quest to learn from the older players in the squad.
“We can talk to them as coaches but there are lots of things they can pick up training alongside good professionals every day.” “I couldn’t be more impressed with him as a human being. His parents have done a fantastic job and should be very proud. He’s got humility, good manners, confidence and a lovely way about him. There was a video that the FA released of some personal insights of his and I couldn’t believe some of his interactions with the fans in Birmingham, at the age of 16, 17. “Not many players have the confidence to go and get the fans going and get them roaring behind the team when they’ve just scored, and I thought that was quite significant in showing the level of his thinking and his comfort in going and putting himself out there to do that.”
“So I’m very, very impressed with him. We’ve got to make sure that we look after him, that we help with that education and help with that development.” He further added. Also joining the list of people that are singing the praises of the young talent is a legend of Manchester United, Roy Keane. Speaking to ITV, Keane said: “He’s got a great chance, the kid, we love everything about him. “What he does on the pitch, the way he speaks off it, he’s playing week in, week out for a top club [Borussia Dortmund]. “The potential in this kid is scary.” “I saw him recently playing in a Champions League game and he was producing passes… I didn’t think he had that in his locker quite yet. “The potential for this boy, he’s a good size, he’s like a boxer, he’s a strong powerful boy. “Gareth [Southgate] must be rubbing his hands.” Keane further added.
Gary Lineker a legend of Liverpool was also not left out, “Bellingham is what? 17? He’s unbelievable. The two games against City, he was up there with the best players on the pitch.” His excellent performances has not gone unnoticed by clubs either, with the player linked with a transfer to one of the top clubs in England, Liverpool in particular.
The Kops will come to learn like their fellow English team, Manchester United that negotiating with Borussia Dortmund is not usually easy and this was seen with the transfer of Jadon Sancho as the Red Devils had to wait for one whole season to sign Sancho and at the price set by the German club. No matter where he plays his football in the next couple of years, it is almost certain that Jude Bellingham will be one of the best players that would dazzle football fans all over the world in years to come if he continues with his current trajectory and he might probably end up with one of the top clubs in Europe.
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