FEATURE | World Cup One to Watch: Jude Bellingham

Of the plethora of players set to feature for their national team in the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, 19-year-old England international Jude Bellingham will be at the forefront of interest for many of the competition’s viewers. This will be the first World Cup for the Birmingham native, and despite his young age he looks set to feature in a prominent role for Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions and considering his current form for Borussia Dortmund, it’s no surprise to see why.

Bellingham joined Borussia Dortmund back in the summer of 2019 and quickly made a name for himself in Germany. The move came with quite a bit of pressure mounted on top of it. Bellingham has just had his number retired by Birmingham City, and the English club had accepted a fee upwards of €20 million for a 17-year-old. This sort of pressure is more than enough to weigh heavy on a player’s shoulders, but Bellingham took it in stride. Over the course of the next few years, he would take his time to develop into the player we see today. He took his chances very early on and despite his age he was able to become one of the mainstays in Dortmund’s starting XI, vindicating Die Schwarzgelben in their pursuit of the player and the fee they paid for him to join the club.

Bellingham has by far become one of Dortmund’s most important players this season, if not most important. The England international has, as mentioned, been going from strength to strength since his move to Germany, but throughout the 2022/23 season he has upped his game to truly become Dortmund’s lynchpin in midfield. Bellingham has seven goals and two assists in all competitions for the German giants, with four of those goals coming in the Champions League this season, which is extremely impressive considering his usual position on the pitch.

Aside from goals and assists, Bellingham has also proven his overall world class talent in other statistical areas as well. Bellingham has excelled in terms of progressive passes with 4.72 per 90, putting him in the 83rd percentile when compared to similar players across Europe’s top 5 leagues. He also finds himself in the 92nd percentile in terms of dribbles completed (1.9 per 90).

Defensively, Bellingham has also made solid contributions, especially in terms of interceptions and blocks per 90. He has well and truly been the heart of Dortmund’s midfield and will certainly play a similar role for England at the World Cup.

Bellingham’s significance goes far beyond just the numbers we’ve already discussed. The Englishman has become one of the primary leaders in this Dortmund side. Despite his young age he was named third captain behind veteran stalwarts Mats Hummels and club captain Marco Reus, both a huge honor and a testament to just how much the club value his contributions on and off the pitch. Bellingham has done his best to continue to breathe life into the idea that English players can do very well in foreign leagues and serves as an example as to what young players can achieve when they choose to take the bold approach of playing football beyond Britain’s borders. His overall contributions have far exceeded what would generally be expected from a player at this point in their career. To Bellingham however, the contributions seem natural, and it’s scary to think just how good of a player he will be in 5-10 years’ time when he truly hits his prime.

Dortmund are of course not the only club to value Bellingham highly. There is expected to be a massive bidding war between some of Europe’s biggest clubs for his services in 2024. Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Chelsea are all allegedly interested in the player’s services. While it is not a given that the player will leave Dortmund, Bellingham’s value and appeal abroad may skyrocket even higher depending on his performances at the World Cup.

When looking at the player’s involvement under Gareth Southgate, fans can expect to see Jude have a strong level of involvement for England at the World Cup this year. Bellingham has a total of 17 caps for the senior England national team and played an impactful role during the team’s Nations League games this year. While it may be true that Bellingham is still quite young, he has shown mentality and maturity far beyond his years and it would only be to England’s detriment if he is not one of the first names on the team sheet for the three lions.

GGFN | Brian Szlenk

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