Benjamin McFadyean assesses Borussia Dortmund’s signing of 17-year-old English talent Jude Bellingham.
A gifted, intelligent footballer, Jude Bellingham can play in a variety of positions, most notably as a 10 or eight. At the tender age of just 16 years and 38 days, Bellingham made his senior debut for Birmingham City in the EFL Cup first-round tie against Portsmouth on 6 August 2019. In doing so he bettered a mark that had stood for 49 years.
Jude, who like BVB U19 striker talent Youssoufa Moukoko, 15, will be joining the first team in 20/21. The youngster penned a so-called “3+2-deal” with Borussia Dortmund. As a minor, he must not sign a deal that exceeds three years. The current contract will extend by two years once he turns 18 until 2025. The Black and Yellows reportedly transferred €23m to the Blues, which can add up tp €26m including bonuses
Until June 29, Bellingham was 16 years old and as a result, he wasn’t on a professional contract at Birmingham with a salary of £145 per week (equivalent to €150) on a scholarship deal. Now as a 17-year-old and by signing a professional contract, he could be earning as much as £3m (€3.2m) per season with BVB.
He made his under-18s debut aged 14 and broke into the Under-23s in March 2019, coming on and scoring the winner at Nottingham Forest at the City Ground. Bellingham made 12 appearances for the Under-23s during the 2018/19 season – six starts, six as a substitute – and scored on three occasions. He was also voted young professional of the year by EFL in November 2019.
Bellingham has attracted plenty of attention as a result of his outstanding displays in the Championship this season. Despite only turning 16 in June, the rising star has been a shining light for Pep Clotet’s Birmingham City side this season, starting 24 of his team’s opening 36 league games.
The teenager has been linked with a move away from St Andrew’s in recent times, with numerous clubs from around Europe keeping tabs on the player. It was revealed in January that Manchester United made an offer of more than £30m as they looked to secure his services.
However, Borussia Dortmund got the nod and the development that Jadon Sancho achieved at BVB is believed to be the main reason. Father Mark is quoted by the UK based newspaper the Daily Mail today as being “deeply impressed by the way Jadon has developed as a player with Dortmund”. It is believed he is keen for Jude to achieve a similar level of maturity as a player and believes BVB is the right club for his son to develop his maximum potential.
In the 2019/20 season, Bellingham has made 32 appearances, including 28 starts. In that time, he scored four goals and contributed two assists, averaging 0.23 G+A per 90. These stats are very impressive when considering his team’s lowly league position. The League cup winners of 2011 are currently 17th in the English second tier.
Bellingham has primarily been deployed in central midfield this campaign, but he has also played on either flank, as well as in the attacking midfielder role and even as a centre forward on one occasion.
Among the qualities, Jude is admired for is his work rate. He works tirelessly for the team and has been bright in whatever position he has played in but his manager Pep Clotet believes he is most effective when playing in the central midfield role. A role Lucien Favre is believed to have earmarked for him at Borussia.
At such a young age, what is believed to have impressed the scouts at both Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund is that the talented teenager plays with such a tremendous amount of maturity, constantly looking to hurry and press his opponents when out of possession, while he will look to make penetrating runs forward or bring his teammates into the game when on the ball.
The young Englishman also has the astonishing technical ability and can easily get past his man with a clever piece of skill, but he has the awareness to know when it is most appropriate.
In his opening 25 league appearances of the season, Bellingham won 125 duels and made 94 ball recoveries, highlighting his ability to intelligently read the game. Perhaps what is most impressive is that he has an understanding of when to press and when to drop off.
Overall, this is a huge transfer for a club like BVB, who are known to have a focus on creating and develop players into becoming superstars rather than buying them. But with players with the profile of the young English 17-year-old, a move for Bellingham certainly makes sense.