England’s teenage prodigy Jude Bellingham World Best Youth Player | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

England’s teenage prodigy Jude Bellingham World Best Youth Player

28 May, 2023
Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham is an English professional footballer who plays for the England team as a midfielder for Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund. He joined Birmingham City as an Under-8, became the club’s youngest ever first-team player when he made his senior debut in August 2019, at the age of 16 years, 38 days, and played regularly during the 2019/20 season.

He joined Borussia Dortmund in July 2020, and in his first competitive match became their youngest ever goal scorer. He represented England at Under-15 (2016-2018), Under-16 (2018-2019), Under-17 (2019) and Under-21 (2020). He made his first appearance for the senior team in November 2020, and represented the country at UEFA Euro 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Midfielder Bellingham is already a Borussia Dortmund regular and now a World Cup goal scorer, after opening the lead against Iran in Qatar at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) recently announced the winner of the award for the ‘Men’s World Best Youth (Under 20) Player for 2022.’

The ‘Top 10’ from descending order were Ansu Fati of Spain, Yunus Musah of the United States, Nuno Mendes of Portugal, Karim Adeyemi of Germany, Pedri Gonsalez of Spain, Edurado Camavinga of France, Pablo Gavi of Spain, Josko Gvardiol of Croatia third with fifty-five points, Jamal Musiala of Germany second with 95 points. The unanimous choice winner was Jude Bellingham of England with 115 points who has been fantastic throughout the year 2022.

Early Life

Jude Victor William Bellingham was born on June 29, 2003 in Stourbridge, in the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley, West Midlands, the eldest son of Denise and Mark Bellingham. His father Mark was until 2022 a sergeant in the West Midlands Police and was a prolific goal scorer in non-League football and his younger brother, Jobe, is a Birmingham City player. Bellingham attended Priory School in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Birmingham City Head of Academy Mike Dodds revealed why the England star, sticks to wearing No. 22 ever since he was awarded it as a kid to show he can do all of it - as a No. 4, 8 or 10.Dodds says Bellingham went from “not too bad” to an outstanding prospect six years later aged 13 - all adding up to a new shirt number.

“I thought, ‘Yeah he’s alright, not too bad.’ He did not stand out. It was not until he got to thirteen where you started to go, ‘This boy is very good.’ ‘He would have been about 13 or 14 and like most boys that age, they want to be a No. 10.’And I remember, we sat down with him and we said, ‘we think you’re doing yourself a disservice; we think you can do all of it.’”

International Career

Bellingham with a height of1.86 m was eligible to play for his native England and for Ireland, for which he qualified via a grandparent. He made his England Under-15 debut against Turkey in December 2016. In recognition of his captaining that team during the 2017/18 season, he was presented with a ‘Special Achievement Award’ at the 2018 Birmingham City Academy Awards Night.

By the end of 2018 he had made his first appearance for the England Under-16 team, and went on to feature in eleven games, score four goals, and captain the team. He was included in England’s Under-17 squad for the Syrenka Cup, a friendly tournament held in September 2019 in preparation for the 2020 European Championship qualifiers in March 2020.

He made his debut as a substitute in England’s opening match of the tournament, a 5-0 win over Finland in which he scored the third goal, and captained the team in their second fixture, in which they came back from a goal behind to beat Austria 4-2 and qualify for the final. Again, Bellingham scored the third goal. He captained the final, in which England beat hosts Poland on penalties following a 2-2 draw, and was named ‘Player of the Tournament.’

Bellingham received his first call-up to the Under-21 squad for European Championship qualifiers against Kosovo and Austria in September 2020. He became the youngest player to appear for England U21 when he came on to replace Tom Davies after 62 minutes of the match against Kosovo on September 4, with England 3-0 ahead, and scored after 85 minutes to complete the 6-0 victory.

In November 2020, after James Ward-Prowse and Trent Alexander-Arnold withdrew through injury, Bellingham was called up to the England senior squad for the first time. He made his debut in a friendly against Ireland at Wembley on November 12, replacing Mason Mount after 73 minutes of a 3-0 win. At 17 years, 136 days, he became England’s third-youngest full international; only Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney had appeared at a younger age.

Bellingham was named in the England squad for the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, which was delayed until June 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When he came on as an 82nd-minute substitute in England’s opening match, a 1-0 win over Croatia at Wembley on June 13, aged 17 years, and 349 days, he became both the youngest Englishman to play at any major tournament and the youngest of any nationality to play at a European Championship.

2022 FIFA World Cup

Bellingham’s first senior international goal, a header from Luke Shaw’s cross to open the scoring in England’s 6-2 win over Iran in their first game of the 2022 World Cup on November 21, 2022 at Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar, made him the second youngest scorer for England at a World Cup.

He also made the run and pass to Harry Kane who crossed for Raheem Sterling to score England’s third goal, and played the through ball from which Callum Wilson set up their sixth for Jack Grealish. He then followed this up during the ‘Round of 16’ game against Senegal with a run through Senegal’s defence, aiding Jordan Henderson’s goal in the 38th minute.

He then played a key role in Harry Kane’s goal in the third minute of stoppage time in the first half, setting up Phil Foden to make the assist. He has now played a total of twenty-four matches for England (one in 2020, nine in 2021, 12 in 2022 and 2 in 2023).

Club Career

Bellingham joined Birmingham City as an Under-8, after playing for Stourbridge. He played for their Under-18 team at 14 and made his debut for their Under-23 team at 15, on October 15, 2018 away to Nottingham Forest’s Under 23s. Entering the game after an hour, he scored the only goal in the 87th minute “sliding in to force the ball over the goal line after pressure by Kyle McFarlane on the keeper diverted the ball into his path.”

By March 2019, he had three goals from ten development squad appearances, had featured in Four Four Two’s list of the “50 Most Exciting Teenagers in English Football,” and was mentioned as of interest to major European clubs. He was gradually introduced to the first-team environment while still a schoolboy. Thus, training with the seniors, he went with them on match day to observe, and travelled as the “19th man” for a Championship match in March 2019.

Bellingham accepted a two-year scholarship with Birmingham City to begin in July 2019. He was part of the first-team training camp in Portugal, played and scored in pre-season friendlies, and was given squad No. 22 for the 2019/20 season. On August 6, when he started the EFL Cup first round visit to Portsmouth, he became Birmingham City’s youngest ever first-team player. At 16 years, 38 days, he lowered the record set by Trevor Francis in 1970 by 101 days. He played for 80 minutes in the 3-0 defeat and was the Birmingham Mail’s ‘Man of the Match.’

He made his first Football League appearance 19 days later, as a second-half substitute in a 3-0 defeat away to Swansea City, and his home debut on August 31, against Stoke City. Replacing the injured Jefferson Montero after half an hour, Bellingham scored the winner, albeit via a generous deflection, as Birmingham came back from 1-0 down to beat Stoke 2-1, and thus became their youngest ever goal scorer, aged 16 years, and 63 days. He started the next match, away to Charlton Athletic, and scored the only goal from Kerim Mrabti’s cutback.

Bellingham continued as a permanent fixture in the match day squad, sometimes as a substitute but in the starting eleven. He was eased into the team on the left wing, moved into central midfield “where he could gain more confidence,” and then used “in a more advanced role” once the staff were sure he could cope with the responsibility. He was EFL Young Player of the Month for November 2019.According to Head Coach Pep Clotet, Bellingham himself “feels more comfortable in midfield, and more comfortable when he can get closer to the opposition box.”

He was linked with moves to numerous major clubs in January 2020; on deadline day, Birmingham was reported to have turned down a £20 million bid from Manchester United.

Bellingham continued as a first-team regular, and by the time the season was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he had made thirty-two league appearances. He remained an integral part of the team once the season resumed behind closed doors, and set up a late equaliser for Lukas Jutkiewicz against Charlton Athletic that made Birmingham’s league position less precarious with two matches still to play.

He finished the season with four goals from forty-four appearances in all competitions, forty-one in the league, as Birmingham avoided relegation despite losing the last match of the season. In appreciation of what Bellingham achieved in such a short time with the first team, the club announced that they would retire his No. 22 shirt, “to remember one of our own and to inspire others.” At the EFL Awards, he was named both ‘Championship Apprentice of the Year’ and ‘Young Player of the Season.’

Borussia Dortmund

It had long become obvious that Bellingham would leave Birmingham, and it was reported that he and his father had visited several major clubs, of which Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund were the favourites. Impressed by Dortmund’s record of including young players as regulars in the first team, as shown by the likes of Jadon Sancho, who became his destination of choice.

He flew to Germany for a medical, and the transfer was confirmed on July 20, 2020: he would join after Birmingham’s last match of the season. The undisclosed fee was understood by Sky Sports to be a first £25 million, making him the most expensive 17-year in history, plus “several million more” dependent on performance-related criteria.

Bellingham made his debut on September 14, 2020, starting the first match of Dortmund’s 2020/21 season against third-tier MSV Duisburg in the DFB-Pokal, aged 17 years, 77 days. After half an hour, he scored the second goal in a 5-0 win, becoming the club’s youngest goal scorer in the DFB-Pokal, taking six days off Giovanni Reyna’s record, as well as their youngest scorer in any competitive match, breaking Nuri Şahin’s record by five days.

Five days later, he marked his league debut with the assist for Reyna’s opening goal in a 3-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach and was named as Bundesliga ‘Rookie of the Month for September.’ When Bellingham faced Lazio in the group stage on October 20, 2020, aged 17 years, and 113 days, he became the youngest Englishman to start a Champions League match, breaking the record previously set by Phil Foden.

In the first three months of the season, Bellingham was a regular in all competitions, with six starts and seven substitute appearances in the Bundesliga as well as four Champions League starts. He missed the first two matches of 2021 with a foot injury but returned to action as an increasingly regular starter. He was involved in Marco Reus’s goal in the away leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City. He scored against Man City early in the second leg, but Dortmund could not keep their away-goal advantage.

In between, Bellingham scored his first Bundesliga goal from Reyna’s knock-down to equalize with VfB Stuttgart early in the second half; Dortmund won 3-2. He started for Dortmund in their 4-1 victory over RB Leipzig in the 2021 DFB-Pokal Final. He was booked in the first half and replaced by Thorgan Hazard at half-time with his team 3-0 ahead. He finished the season with twenty-nine appearances and one goal in the Bundesliga, forty-six appearances and four goals in all competitions, and was voted Newcomer of the Season by his fellow players.

Bellingham was runner-up to Pedri of Barcelona in the 2021 Kopa Trophy, awarded to the ‘Best Under-21 Male Player’ as voted by earlier winners of the Ballon d’Or. On December 4, he played in Der Klassiker against Bayern Munich. He made the assists for both Dortmund goals, but Bayern won the match 3-2 via a 77th-minute penalty awarded after lengthy VAR involvement. Earlier in the fixture, two Dortmund penalty appeals were turned down by referee Felix Zwayer, who refused to review either.

Interviewed live by Viaplay soon after the match, Bellingham was critical of Zwayer’s decisions, and referred to his part in the 2005 German football match-fixing scandal, saying: “You give a referee, who has match fixed before, the biggest game in Germany. What do you expect?” The DFB wrote to Bellingham asking for his comments as a matter of urgency. He was later fined €40,000 by the German Football Association. He has played ninety-two matches for Dortmund and scored twelve goals.

Honours and Achievements

His individual honours: Birmingham City Under-15/16 Goal of the Season in 2018; Birmingham City Special Achievement Award in 2018; Syrenka Cup Player of the Tournament in 2019; EFL Young Player of the Month in November 2019; Birmingham City Young Player of the Year in 2019/20; EFL Young Player of the Season in 2019/20; Championship Apprentice of the Year in 2019/20; Bundesliga Rookie of the Month in September 2020; Bundesliga Goal of the Month in October 2021; VDV Bundesliga Newcomer of the Season in 2020/21; VDV Bundesliga Team of the Season in 2021/22; Kopa Trophy runner-up in 2021; Goal NXGN in 2022; IFFHS Men’s World’s Best Youth Player in 2022. His team honours include: DFB-Pokal in 2020/21 with Borussia Dortmund; Syrenka Cup in 2019 with England Under-17 and UEFA European Championship runner-up in 2020 with England team.

(The author is an Associate Professor, International Scholar, winner of Presidential Awards and multiple National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He has a PhD, MPhil, and double MSc. His email is [email protected])