As soon as his header roamed across the box and became England’s first goal at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Jude Bellingham wrote history. Still a teenager, the exciting prospect became the first-ever player born in the 2000s to score a goal in the most prestigious football tournament in the world, and his excitement could not be contained.
This is how Bellingham announced himself on the biggest of stages, but his prowess and talent were hardly a secret: since he was 16, England’s midfielder has been earmarked to become one of the top football players in the world. And right now, he is just confirming what everybody was saying about his potential.
“He was 17 when he arrived but it was not just about his quality, how he was leading, his kicking, going to the referee. This guy was something special in terms of his mentality. Now he is 19 and he is already one of the captains. The quality, everybody knows it. The whole package is really good,” said Pep Guardiola, Manchester City’s coach, widely regarded as one of the top masterminds in the world, about Bellingham, before facing England’s midfielder club side, Borussia Dortmund, in the UEFA Champions League.
However, Bellingham, who is 19 years old, is the product of the English football system, with his father, Mark, being a former top scorer in non-League football, with over 700 goals scored in his career, currently working as a sergeant in the West Midlands Police.
As football ran into the family, Jude was directly interested in the sport and started to play when he was only eight years old. Eight years later, he became Birmingham’s youngest-ever starter, at only 16 years and 38 days, when he featured in the EFL Cup match against Portsmouth.
One month later, Bellingham became the youngest-ever scorer for Birmingham, with scouts and managers throughout the whole of England being impressed with his work ethic and the passion and no-nonsense attitude taken towards the game.
“My game reflects my origins. It’s a working-class style because my game is based on energy and hard work,” explained Bellingham in an interview for DAZN, after signing for Borussia Dortmund.
Indeed, in a country mad about football, with one of the top teams in Europe, which is constantly fighting to clinch the UEFA Champions League trophy, Bellingham decided to take his talents in Bundesliga, where the spotlights do not shine as brightly. And in Borussia Dortmund, he chose a perfect setting for a young player to get meaningful minutes, refine his game, and burst on the biggest of stages with excellent performances.
Earmarked as one of the brightest 50 talents in English football in 2019, Bellingham was eyed by plenty of sides, including Manchester United, who had a $25 million bid rejected in January 2020, before Dortmund made their move.
Six months later, Bellingham became the most expensive 17-year-old player in the history of football, as the German giants funneled $30 million to Birmingham, who needed the money, being in financial dire straits, cashing in after the midfielder had only recently signed his first professional contract.
The records began to fall short as Bellingham became the younger-ever goal scorer for Dortmund in a competitive match in his first game for the new club. He also became the youngest-ever player to score in the German Cup and to assist a goal in the German Bundesliga and also the youngest Englishman to start a UEFA Champions League match.
In 112 matches for Dortmund, Bellingham scored 19 times and dished 23 assists, otherworldly numbers for a player who has only 157 games in his career, a quarter of which were not played in the first flight.
“Jude is phenomenal. Just in training in the last couple of days, to have a 17-year-old, who wants to compete with senior players, not only has the technique but the competitiveness and maturity… he’s a hugely exciting player. He’s going to be an important player for England. We’re not just taking him for the experience,” said England’s manager, Gareth Southgate, before the start of the UEFA EURO 2020, when Bellingham made his debut at a major tournament.
Earning plaudits from Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, and Jurgen Klopp, three of the top managers of the past decade in football is no easy feature, but Bellingham made it look easy by putting in extraordinary performances for Dortmund.
Therefore, his name was linked to several high-profile clubs, like Liverpool or Real Madrid, who will have to fork out roughly $100 million for his transfer. And his performances at Qatar 2022, the tournament that will likely cement his status, are only due to adding to his price.
His passing accuracy is excellent for a midfielder, but his box-to-box qualities can only unlock plenty of positions on the field, while his dribbling is next to none for a midfielder.
So this is why the Beatles’ song, “Hey Jude”, became an instant hit at the Khalifa International Stadium in England’s debut at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with Bellingham running the show in midfield in his team’s 6-2 win over Iran.
And the best is next to come…