Birmingham City got it right, Jude Bellingham is something different. He’s a player English football wasn’t ready for. It might not be too much of a stretch to say he’s the country’s very own Kylian Mbappe. A teenager tearing the World Cup apart and doing it like it’s nothing more than holding a buttercup underneath his chin at school for a bit of fun.
Rarely do players look so at ease in new surroundings, rarely do teams retire a number for a 17-year-old. Everyone laughed at the Blues in 2020, the whole of England is laughing now. They’ve got a special one.
The midfielder helped Gareth Southgate’s side to a second consecutive World Cup quarter-final. Considering the time before Southgate ended in a group stage exit, the Euros after that was embarrassment against Iceland and England hadn’t scored in a World Cup quarter-final since 2002, it’s pretty good going.
Bellingham ran the show with the ball for his country in Qatar once more. He had already scored the opening goal of the tournament for the Three Lions, that was against Iran. This was African champions Senegal, but it doesn’t matter to Bellingham. He’s a world star and he can’t buy or drink alcohol in 26 countries across the world.
What he can do is attract bids of over £100m in the transfer market. That’s just what Chelsea have to compete with when it comes to trying to sign the Borussia Dortmund star. If Todd Boehly needed convincing about the quality of player he would be getting for that sort of money, Gary Neville couldn’t have praised him more after the match.
Neville said: “It’s very rare you see a player so comfortable in his own half as he is in his own half. This idea is he a holding player? An attacking player? He’s got everything.” The Blues are looking for a player to command the middle of the pitch and have eyes on Bellingham’s partner Declan Rice too. Both of them are set to attract multiple suitors, but perhaps nobody will be as in the spotlight as the box-to-box player over the summer.
“It’s the composure, fearlessness that I can’t get my head around,” Neville glowed. “I’ve watched players play for England for years and the weight of the shirt was enormous, he just doesn’t feel it. It looks like he belongs out there, he wants it, he needs it.”
Chelsea themselves need a player to take games to the opposition but also be a reliable presence off the ball. When it comes to players of that mould over the last 20 years there are few with the track record of Roy Keane, and he was just as impressed with Bellingham. “I’ve not seen a young midfielder play like that for years,” the former Manchester United midfielder started.
“Normally you see one 26, 27. Everything in the game, we talk about what goes on in his brain, he’s like a man, that maturity, what’s going on upstairs is huge for a midfielder, decision-making, final pass. The kid has everything.”
Mbappe was at the same stage four years ago in Russia when he was scoring World Cup final goals. He moved for over £150m to Paris Saint-Germain as a teenager. Bellingham looks set for his own move. Graham Potter will hope it’s to his side after the Blues look at their midfield. Jorginho and N’Golo Kante are both out of contract in the summer and there hasn’t been a permanent player purchased in that position since Mateo Kovacic in 2019.
Chelsea have retired their own numbers, Gianfranco Zola’s No.25 hasn’t been worn since he left, but that was an established star of the world game. Birmingham set their stool out with Bellingham before he could drive. They got it right and England are happy about it, Chelsea have had yet another reminder of what they’re missing though.
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