Hey Jude: Bellingham’s Rise to Worldwide Hit
The only thing that we don’t know about Jude is his limit
It has become customary for Borussia Dortmund manager Edin Terzić to wax lyrical over his midfield maestro in every press conference, the latest following his side’s 2-0 victory at Werder Bremen on Saturday.
“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 over 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.
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 has become one of the first names on the teamsheet at the Signal Iduna Park, with the Englishman displaying characteristics that largely belie 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 has become to Terzić’s outfit. The midfielder has captained the side on a few occasions this 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 all-rounded midfielders in European football, which ties in nicely to the No. 22 shirt that 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 has been involved in 135 different open-play sequences that have led to a Dortmund shot. Amazingly, Bellingham tops both the ‘shot attempted’ and ‘build-up involvement’ categories 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 offers a stable and combative presence at the base of the Dortmund midfield by neutralising opposition attacks before they get into full flow. The Englishman has won more tackles than any other Dortmund player in the Bundesliga this term (29), while his 27 interceptions is the joint-most alongside Raphaël Guerreiro. The tenacious teenager displays a sense of maturity much wiser beyond his years with his constant and unselfish pressing. Only Joshua Kimmich (26) has won possession in the final third more than Bellingham in the Bundesliga in 2022-23 (25), and he also dominates 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. He has completed more dribbles than any other player in the Bundesliga this season (46), 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 has completed 9.5 progressive carries per 90 in the league so far this season, which is the highest rate 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 most fouls in the German top-flight (52).
Progression is the name of the Bellingham game when it comes to passing, too. No BVB midfielder completes more open-play progressive passes per 90 than his 4.5.
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 Dortmund player on the pitch. The England international has attempted more shots than any other BVB player in the league the season (39) and also can get on the ball to create high up the pitch, often dropping deep between the two central defenders to progress the ball forward. No Dortmund player has made more successful passes ending in the final third in the Bundesliga than the 19-year-old (277).
Only Guerreiro (seven) has provided more assists in all competitions than Bellingham this campaign for Terzic’s side (six). And Bellingham’s also created 20 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 might even be higher.
The midfielder announced himself on the world stage at the 2022 World Cup. Aged 19 years and 145 days, Bellingham become England’s second youngest goalscorer at a World Cup with his goal in the opener against Iran – after Michael Owen (18 years and 190 days). The 19-year-old emerged as the heartbeat of the England side, with his assured performances a huge positive for England fans.
Bellingham’s displays for club and country in recent times have thrust him into the spotlight ahead of a potential tug-of-war among Europe’s elite for his signing in the summer.
One thing is already for certain, Jude Bellingham will take any side and make them better.
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