When England reached the semi-finals of the Fifa World Cup in 2018, Jude Bellingham was at home watching the games on TV as a 15-year-old who celebrated his birthday midway through the tournament in Russia.
Four-and-a-half years later, Bellingham, now just 19, is not only playing in the World Cup for his country, but he also started for Gareth Southgate’s side and scored in the 6-2 group B victory over Iran.
Given a 9/10 rating, the midfielder was praised by The Telegraph for the way he marked his World Cup debut. Becoming just the second England teenager to score at the tournament after Michael Owen, it was “another reminder” of what a “special talent” the Three Lions have in their ranks.
In the dominant victory on Monday, England’s younger players “charged the occasion”, said David Hytner in The Guardian. And Bellingham in particular was impressive as he headed his first international goal – the “centrepiece” of a performance of “power, skill and precision”.
Bellingham’s World Cup bow “could hardly have gone better” as he scored England’s first goal of the tournament, said David Stubbings in the Express & Star. It’s the “latest installation” in what has already been a “meteoric rise” for the Stourbridge-born teenager who has set numerous records since “bursting onto the scene” with Championship side Birmingham City.
A “shining example” of England’s emerging generation, the midfielder’s arrival has “long been in the making”, said Ed Aarons in The Guardian. Ever since he first played for Birmingham’s youth sides, he has been “tipped for stardom”.
Born in June 2003, Bellingham joined Birmingham’s academy as an under-eight and was the “star player for every age group”, said Martin Fricker in The Mirror. He was even described by Birmingham City academy coach Kristjaan Speakman as the “most sought-after 12-year-old in Europe”.
Scouts from clubs including the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Benfica, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all came to watch him play and at 16 years and 38 days old he became Birmingham’s youngest-ever player when he made his senior debut on 6 August 2019 .
After 44 first-team games for the Blues, German giants Borussia Dortmund came calling. In July 2020 he signed for the Bundesliga club for an initial fee of £25m – making him the “most expensive 17-year-old in history”, said Sky Sports.
In his two years in Germany Bellingham has not just become a regular starter for Dortmund, he’s been an “increasingly dominant force”, said Dom Farrell on Sporting News. He made history in October when he captained Dortmund for the first time – becoming the youngest Bundesliga skipper ever – and this season has scored ten goals in 22 games, including four in five Champions League outings.
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand believes Bellingham could be England captain now. Speaking on his Vibe With Five podcast, Ferdinand praised the youngster for the way “he carries and presents himself”, and added “this kid’s playing Champions League football the lot, he’s doing everything”.
‘Destined for Greatness’
Bellingham was “not yet born” the last time a teenager scored for England at a World Cup, said Nestor Watch on PlanetFootball. The only other teen to achieve the feat was Michael Owen – who went on to lift the Ballon d’Or and seal a move to Real Madrid. England’s “latest golden starlet” looks to be on “the same trajectory” and is “destined for greatness”.
Qatar 2022 could do for Bellingham “what Italia 90 did for Paul Gascoigne” or what “France 98 did for Owen”, said Brian Dick on BirminghamLive. The World Cup could “make him impossible to ignore” as the rest of football “comes to understand” that Bellingham is “one of a kind”. That “was obvious” from day one.