Jude Bellingham has been hailed as ‘the future of English football’ after an international break in which the 19-year-old once again showed why elite clubs are queuing up to sign him.
England midfielder Declan Rice says his Three Lions teammate is the best teenager in world football and is ready to play at the very top level despite his age.
Bellingham was the best player on the pitch for England as they lost 1-0 to Italy and drew 3-3 with Germany in their final competitive games before the World Cup this November.
His all-round performances in the middle of the park have all-but guaranteed his place in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI at Qatar 2022.
Bellingham’s stellar performances for club and country have also ensured all of Europe’s top clubs are watching him, ahead of what could be a huge battle for his signature next summer.
The former Birmingham City youngster was strongly linked with a move to Liverpool this summer, but decided to remain at Borussia Dortmund out of loyalty to the German club, who have helped take his game to the next level since his arrival from the Championship as a 17-year-old.
Now, it is reported Real Madrid have joined the race and the England starlet is seriously considering a move to the Spanish champions, despite additional interest from Manchester United, Man City and Chelsea.
Bellingham became the world’s most expensive 17-year-old when he signed for Dortmund for £25million in 2020, and it’s now said to be valued at around £130m.
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And his rise has come as no surprise to England teammate Rice, who says the young midfielder is an old head on young shoulders and is also physically way ahead of his years.
“He’s 19 but he’s got the body of a 28-year-old, he’s a man,” said Rice as he heaped praise on Bellingham.
“He thinks like a man, plays like a man and shows personality and character. You can see it when he plays for Dortmund, how he gets around the pitch. He’s the future of English football to come for the next 15 years if he wants to be.
“Every time I play with Jude we’re building that connection and I say to him ‘you go and bomb on and do your attacking stuff and I’ll sit here and defend for you’. So we’re getting that good connection, he’s great to play with.
“He’s a top lad as well, really pushes you on the pitch. We push each other on and it’s a privilege to play next to him.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anyone as good as he is for 19. I look at a lot of 19 year-olds, whether it’s at a club, around the world, around the country, to have the whole package it’s a hard thing to have and I feel like he’s got that.”
His versatility will be one of the reasons Bellingham is so coveted by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, and Rice says it’s one of his biggest strengths.
“I’ve been around and played so many more games than he has – and I’m still only 23 – but you can just tell as a 19-year-old what he brings to the team already, the energy he’s got,” added the West Ham captain.
“He can play in a holding role, he can play as an eight, he can play as a No. 10. He can play anywhere in midfield and I know he’s going to be crucial for us.
“He’s a young man with an old head, really. All the lads love him.
“Even little things, as a 19 year-old you’re scared to talk to the referee but he’s in the referee’s face demanding answers, demanding decisions and he leaves himself on the pitch constantly.”
Former England coach Stuart Pearce even compared Bellingham to Paul Gascoigne and believes the teen can make a similar leap to stardom as Gazza experienced at Euro 96 at the World Cup in Qatar this winter.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, he said: “You’ve got two boys there who are both under 23, they balance off each other really well, Dec obviously offers that more defensive shield and Bellingham has got freedom to get forward and supplement the attack.
“The kid can only get better. He’s got the world at his feet.
“I thought last summer at Euro 2020 he might be one of these players who really enhances himself at a major tournament, like Gascoigne did many years ago.
“To be fair, he’s got another major stage coming up at the World Cup, and hopefully he takes another step forward.”
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