Jude Bellingham: The next big thing?
Background Image: Adam Dridi. CC BY-SA 2.0.
Most teenagers spend their time alone in their bedrooms and/or fighting with their parents. Not so Jude Bellingham, who has been setting the EFL Championship alight with Birmingham City this season.
At just 16 years and 38 days, Bellingham became the Blue’s youngest ever player when he started an EFL Cup match against Portsmouth, beating the previous record that had been held by Trevor Francis since 1970.
Bellingham then became the club’s youngest scorer a few weeks later, coming off the bench against Stoke to grab the winner, breaking another of Francis’ long-held records.
The talented-teen has gone on to become a mainstay in Pep Clotet’s side, making 29 appearances and finding the net four times this term. In September last year, he was part of the England Under-17 side that were victorious in the Syrenka Cup, where he was named player of the tournament. It’s no surprise then, to find his name linked with a plethora of top clubs. But what can this precocious talent offer? And just how good can he be?
Like many young players today, Bellingham is comfortable in a variety of positions. This season has seen him being mainly deployed on the right and left side of midfield by Clotet. However, he has also been entrusted to marshal the middle of the park. When you consider he doesn’t turn 17 until June, the level of trust being thrown on his young shoulders is really quite remarkable.
With an almost effortless gait, Bellingham has the ability to glide past players and possesses an eye for a killer pass. In the unforgiving EFL Championship, he can more than mix it physically too, not neglecting his defensive duties.
Comparisons have been made to the likes of Dele Alli and Steven Gerrard, in that he is very much an all-round, complete player; equally adept in defence and attack.
Both Manchester United and Chelsea have been heavily linked with the player in recent weeks, with fees in the region of £50million being touted. Particularly given their perilous financial situation, it seems inevitable that Birmingham will have to part with their prized asset at some point. It was only 12 months ago that the Blues were hit with a nine-point deduction for EFL profitability and sustainability rules breached between 2015 and 2018. In the circumstances, and given the potential sums involved, the logic of boosting the St Andrews coffers by cashing in on Bellingham would seem to be inescapable.
Should the mega-talented up-and-comer depart in the summer, Blues fans will hope that at the very least a deal can be reached for him to be loaned back, to continue his development at St Andrew's for one more season.
Currently the midfielder earns just £145 per week, being unable to sign a professional contract until his 17th birthday. Any new deal he signs, whether with Birmingham or another club, will see the youngster earn a hefty raise. But at such a tender age, could the trappings of fame and wealth lead him astray?
It would appear Bellingham is a grounded individual, surrounded by a close-knit family unit. Father Mark, a sergeant in the West Midlands Police, handles his affairs. Mark was a lethal goal scorer himself, netting aplenty in non-league for the likes of Halesowen Town and Leamington.
Bellingham continues to tally minutes in the Championship at a rate that is unheard of for youngsters his age. The mounting interest at such an early stage of his career is unsurprising. If this young man can keep his feet on the floor—and let them do the talking—the sky could be the limit. Remember the name: Jude Bellingham!