Jude Bellingham has completed a huge transfer to Real Madrid, but is he good enough? You bet he is.
The only thing that we don’t know about Jude is his limit
It became customary for Borussia Dortmund manager Edin Terzić to wax lyrical over his midfield maestro in a variety of post-match press conferences, just like he did following his side’s 2-0 victory at Werder Bremen in February.
“He’s the oldest 19-year-old player worldwide”, he added.
And it really is easy to forget that Jude Bellingham is just 19 years old. With nearly 100 Bundesliga appearances to his name, the English teenager has swiftly developed into one of the most talented midfielders on the continent during his spell at Signal Iduna Park, which looks to be coming to an end after Dortmund confirmed they had agreed a fee with Real Madrid for Bellingham for €103m (£88.5m), potentially rising to €133.9m (£115m).
After growing up in the West Midlands market town of Stourbridge, Bellingham joined boyhood club Birmingham City aged seven and advanced through the ranks at an unprecedented rate – even playing for the club’s U23s at the age of 15.
Aged just 16 years and 38 days, he became the youngest ever player to appear for the senior side, breaking club legend Trevor Francis’ 49-year record, and became the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer later that month.
The teenager was an instrumental figure for the Blues in 2019-20, making 41 appearances in the Championship – the fourth-most of any player at the club. Bellingham had been thrown in at the deep end, but boy did he know how to swim.
It was fast becoming obvious that Bellingham was something special, and his fairy tale time at St. Andrews came to an end in the summer of 2020, with the youngster joining German side Borussia Dortmund to continue his development towards the top of the game.
As the records have continued to tumble, it’s a decision that has been more than vindicated.
Youngest goalscorer in DFB-Pokal history? Check. Youngest Englishman to start a UEFA Champions League match? Done. Youngest Englishman to score in a Champions League knockout goal? Yep.
Unsurprisingly, international recognition has followed with Bellingham becoming not only England’s third-youngest player in history, but the youngest player to make an appearance at a major tournament, usurping the previous record set by Michael Owen (18 years and 183 days). Bellingham wasn’t even 18 yet.
The midfielder quickly became one of the first names on the teamsheet at Signal Iduna Park, with the Englishman displaying characteristics that largely belied his tender age.
Alongside Reus and Mats Hummels, Bellingham was made Dortmund’s third captain in the summer of 2022, highlighting just how integral he had become to Terzić’s outfit. The midfielder captained the side on a few occasions in the 2022-23 season aged just 19, making him the youngest-ever captain in the Bundesliga since data collection began in 1995.
Bellingham is one of the most well-rounded midfielders in European football, which ties in nicely to the No. 22 shirt he wears. He chose the No. 22 because it exhibits his ability to play as a No. 4 (holding midfielder), No. 8 (box-to-box midfielder) and as a No. 10 (attacking midfielder).
One stat really sums up Bellingham’s profile as a do-it-all midfielder. Across all competitions in 2022-23, Bellingham was involved in 221 different open-play sequences that led to a Dortmund shot. Amazingly, Bellingham topped the shot attempted (76) category jointly with Donyell Malen, and lead build-up involvement (104) outright in the metric, showing how he is both integral in building up play but also prominent in popping up and being on the end of chances.
First, let’s tackle the No. 4 role. Bellingham has offered a stable and combative presence at the base of the Dortmund midfield by neutralising opposition attacks before they got into full flow. The Englishman made more tackles than any other Dortmund player in the Bundesliga in 2022-23 (76), while his 35 interceptions was just one behind Raphaël Guerreiro, who produced the most. The tenacious teenager displays a sense of maturity much wiser beyond his years with his constant and unselfish pressing. Only Joshua Kimmich (38) and Randal Kolo Muani (32) won possession in the final third more than Bellingham in the Bundesliga (31), and he also dominated in the middle third of the pitch for Dortmund.
Next, onwards to the No. 8 role. One of Bellingham’s most impressive traits is his ability to transition defence into attack with his lung-busting runs with the ball. No player completed more dribbles than him in the Bundesliga this season (88), and his quick feet make him a nightmare to defend as he weaves his way past defenders with uber-efficient changes of direction and silky ball control. Bellingham completed 9.99 progressive carries per 90 and progressed the ball 105.6m upfield with carries per 90 in the league this season, both the highest rates of any midfielder in the division. The map below shows how often these are penetrative, surging bursts through the centre of the park.
Most of the time, opposition players often have no other choice but to stop the teenager in his tracks completely, with Bellingham winning the third-most fouls in the German top-flight (73).
Progression is the name of the Bellingham game when it comes to passing, too. No BVB midfielder completed more open-play progressive passes per 90 than his 4.5, while his nine through balls (six being successful) were both team-high tallies.
And lastly, the No. 10 profile. The midfielder’s surges off the ball allow him the lose his marker as he runs beyond the No. 9, often finding himself as the furthest forward player on the pitch. The England international attempted more shots than any other BVB player in the league in 2022-23 (67) and can also get on the ball to create high up the pitch, often dropping deep between the two central defenders to progress the ball forward. Of Dortmund players, only Guerreiro (447) made more successful passes ending in the final third in the Bundesliga than the 19-year-old (443).
Guerreiro (14) and Julian Brandt (nine) were the only ones to provide more assists in all competitions than Bellingham for Terzic’s side (six), and Bellingham also created 33 secondary chances – the pass before the pass that creates the shot – the most of any BVB player in the Bundesliga this year, so that assist tally could have been even be higher.
The midfielder announced himself on the world stage at the 2022 World Cup. Aged 19 years and 145 days, Bellingham became England’s second youngest goalscorer at a World Cup with his opener against Iran – after Michael Owen (18 years and 190 days). He emerged as the heartbeat of the England side, with his assured performances a huge positive for Three Lions fans.
Bellingham’s displays for club and country have thrust him into the spotlight, and now he will be plying his trade at Real Madrid.
It’s a huge move for such a young player, but one thing already seems certain – Jude Bellingham will fit into any side and make them better.