JUDE BELLINGHAM: CAN THE 17-YEAR-OLD MOW HIS WAY INTO THE STAR-STUDDED STARTING LINEUP AT THE EUROS?
Phil Foden might have taken all the limelight during Manchester City’s win against Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League but the alongside the City youngster, but his 17-year-old England compatriot Jude Bellingham made quite an impact with his performances over the two legs which was capped off with a goal. Now with the Euros around the corner the chances of Bellingham making the England squad has a become a hot topic of discussion for the fans.
Set to turn 18 during this summer’s rearranged Euros, Bellingham became the youngest Englishman to appear in a Champions League knockout game in February against Sevilla and his rise has been quite meteoric, so the callups and subsequent selection to the Euros by Gareth Southgate is not surprising.
Born in the county of Stourbrigde in West Midlands, Bellingham started his career in the youth system of Birmingham City at the age of eight and soon was featuring in their age-group teams regularly, owing to the enormous talent that he possessed.
Still a schoolboy when he was first called up into the first-team environment in March 2019, Bellingham was on the plane to Portugal for Birmingham City’s preseason tour before being officially drafted into the first-team squad ahead of the 2019-20 season.
Bellingham celebrating after scoring for Birmingham City in 2019. (Image Courtesy: Marca / Website)
In August he made his debut for the Blues, which made him the youngest ever first-team player in the club history and went on to make 44 appearances in the only season at his boyhood club. Although Bellingham started off as a winger, he was gradually eased into central midfield where he has made his name and created quite the furore.
As expected, he attracted the eyes of the leading clubs in the world, with the likes of Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund fighting for the services of the English starlet.
THE RISE TO STARDOM
In July 2020, Bellingham left Birmingham City and joined Borussia Dortmund in a deal worth an initial €25 million and an undisclosed sum in variables. Although he arrived in Germany as the next big superstar in English football, Bellingham didn’t let any of the pressure get to him.
Three months into his first season at the Westfalenstadion, Bellingham was a regular in all competitions with 13 appearances in the league alongside the four starts in the Champions League group stage.
During this time at Dortmund, the youngster went on to break numerous records for Dortmund, where he became the youngest ever to score a goal for the club, becoming the youngest ever to have started in the Champions League in the club’s history.
Bellingham, in the Champions League, for Borussia Dortmund. (Image Courtesy: Borussia Dortmund / Website)
Four goals and four assists in 46 appearances in his first season might not sound amazing but for a 17-year-old, who plays as a central midfielder for one of the biggest clubs in Europe, they are noteworthy and eye-catching.
A creative, agile, skillful, and versatile midfielder, Bellingham is not the usual midfielder who only sits in front of the defence and starts attacks from the base of the midfield. Described as being immensely talented, the Englishman is gifted with quick feet, who can play short and sharp passes to get out of pressure and create chances for his teammates.
But his biggest skill and strength is that of his ability to burst late into the final third, becoming a goal threat while also screening the Dortmund defence in a much more defensive minded role.
With the club changing formations regularly, Bellingham usually plays either as a defensive midfielder with a back four and as an out and out number eight while playing with a back three.
His work-rate and tactical intelligence off the ball is evidently visible during his time at Dortmund, as his defensive actions are equally important in what is a very young squad, and it has been paid off with the England callups at the end of last year and his selection to the Euros squad.
Bellingham, as normally others would do, came through the ranks of age-group football for England, appearing for the under-15’s, under-16’s, under-17’s and under-21’s before making it into the first team in 2020 and now is ready to feature at the Euros.
Bellingham plying for the England U21 side in 2019 (Image Courtesy: England FA / Website)
His selection for England’s first team was an eventuality after his impact in Germany and in November 2020, Bellingham was called up to the squad after the withdrawals of James Ward-Prowse and Trent Alexander-Arnold and made his debut against the Republic of Ireland on 12th November 2020, becoming the third youngest debutant in England history after Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney.
Following his second appearance against San Marino in March this year, Gareth Southgate said,
“He’s a player we think is going to be an England international in the future. We feel that in that area of the pitch, although we were very happy with everybody tonight, we are a little bit short in numbers.”
The genuine amount of talent in the England squad might not allow the youngster to start in the Euros but if the Three Lions want to win their first major tournament since 1966, they need that bit of magic from the midfield and Bellingham might just be their answer.
Southgate is known for his safety-first approach since the start of the reign at England, but we, at FootTheBall, believe that it would be enough for England to lift the trophy ahead of other star-studded teams in the competition if the manager stays with the same approach.
He will need to change at some point and the inclusion of Bellingham shall certainly be the starting point of that change, because who knows, the former Birmingham City starlet might just go on to do what Rooney did 17 years ago.