•The summer looks set to be an interesting one for the midfielder, with a host of Europe’s top clubs reportedly ready to battle for the £110m-rated player.
•When Bellingham left the Blues for Borussia Dortmund in 2020 for £25m, becoming the most expensive 17-year-old in the history of football, the Championship side were mocked by some for retiring the teenager’s shirt number, despite only playing one full season of professional football.
Jude Bellingham’s rapid rise in recent years has seen him become an important player for both Borussia Dortmund and England and a wanted man for some of football’s biggest clubs.
The summer looks set to be an interesting one for the midfielder, with a host of Europe’s top clubs reportedly ready to battle for the £110m-rated player.
Just 19, Bellingham was one of England’s standout performers at last year’s World Cup and as he prepares to pull on the Three Lions shirt again, BBC Sport charts his path from the humble youngster at Birmingham to one of the most sought-after talents in word football.
‘He cried when he left Birmingham’
When Bellingham left the Blues for Borussia Dortmund in 2020 for £25m, becoming the most expensive 17-year-old in the history of football, the Championship side were mocked by some for retiring the teenager’s shirt number, despite only playing one full season of professional football.
But the ability he is showing to the world now, coupled with his humble attitude, highlights just why he was so well thought of at the Blues. “He didn’t want to leave Birmingham City, he cried,” says football journalist Guillem Balague.
“Yet he has come out of his comfort zone and has developed into a very comfortable young man.”
‘He wasn’t interested in football’
For someone so incredibly gifted, it seemed like he was always destined to become a footballer. But as a child, Bellingham was initially not that keen on the sport.
His first coach, Phil Wooldridge, remembered first meeting Bellingham when he was four. “As soon as you put a football in front of him, (he was) not really interested,” he told the BBC.
“It took a while for him to get into football, it wasn’t just overnight, it was a matter of a few months.”
But when it clicked for Bellingham there was no stopping him. He would tell his teachers and fellow pupils at his school that one day he would play for England and, as his love for the sport grew, Wooldridge and Bellingham’s father set up a team called Stourbridge Juniors which he went on to play regularly for.
It was there he caught the eye of local professional clubs and at the age of seven, he joined Birmingham City, where he would work under a coach who Bellingham credits with shaping him into the person and player he is today.
Mike Dodds, who is now a first-team coach at Sunderland, played a key role in Bellingham’s development that would lead to him making his professional debut at the age of 16.
“He was my best coach educator because if he wasn’t happy with a session if he wasn’t happy with the kind of route that his development was going, he would be the first person to let me know his thoughts,” Dodds said.
“He’s just a magnificent human being, you know, he’s a role model. He’s got complete empathy for people around him, from a human perspective I haven’t got enough words to kind of praise him with.”
He’s just a phenomenon
That empathy was clear to see for the millions watching at last year’s World Cup when, after Harry Kane missed England’s second penalty that would have leveled the scores against France, Bellingham was the first player over to comfort the striker.
Bellingham played just one season at Birmingham but was crucial in helping them avoid relegation to League One. The talent and maturity he showed on the pitch at only 17 caught the eye of many of the world’s biggest clubs, but it was Borussia Dortmund who won the race to sign the player.
Rather than be overawed by the bigger stage the Bundesliga giants offered, Bellingham continued to excel and in October last year he made history by becoming Dortmund’s youngest captain at just 19.
“Every time you think you’ve seen a fully formed Jude Bellingham, he does something else, something different and adds more layers to his game,” German football expert Raphael Honigstein said.
“He’s just a phenomenon and it is sometimes frightening to think where he might be at his prime of 26 or 27.”
Another layer Bellingham has added this season has been goals. In his previous two seasons at Dortmund, he did not score more than six goals but already this term he has 10, with one of those coming against Manchester City in the Champions League back in September.
Bellingham had also scored against Pep Guardiola’s side in the quarter-finals of the competition two years earlier, and although Dortmund were knocked out, former Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves— working as a TV pundit for that game —said Bellingham stood out above all others. “The kid is an absolute diamond,” he said.
“He was best player on the pitch in both games, against some of the best players in the world and he was still only 17.
“Then the way he walked down the touchline and greeted me and Rio [Ferdinand], he did it with such confidence, I thought that was really special.”
For anyone still not aware of just how talented Bellingham is then they certainly knew about him after his performances at his first World Cup, where even his team-mates were unable to play down his ability.
Following another masterclass display in the 3-0 last-16 win against Senegal, Manchester City and England midfielder Phil Foden said of Bellingham: “I don’t want to big him up too much because he is still young,” before adding: “But he’s one of the most gifted players I have ever seen.
“He has no weakness in his game. I think he will be the best midfielder in the world.”
With Bellingham being linked with a host of Europe’s biggest clubs this summer, it’s clear there are not many who would argue against Foden’s view.