Jude Bellingham shows why he's different with 25-minute Champions League masterclass

By Alex Richards

At half-time of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League win over Besiktas, Jamie Carragher needed only one word to describe Jude Bellingham: “Wow!”

In truth, the Liverpool icon’s succinct declaration was all that was needed to sum up the England teenager’s latest display.

But not because of the 18-year-old Stourbridge-born youngster had scored BVB’s opener, or because he had brilliantly teed up Erling Haaland on the stroke of half-time.

Rather, because of how he had turned around his own individual performance in Istanbul, showing a now familiar maturity to shrug of an initial 20 minutes where he had struggled before taking over and producing two decisive moments to give his side the lead.

Bellingham, who gambled on his prodigious talent by leaving Birmingham City for immediate first-team football in Germany in 2020 - he didn’t want to join a member of the Premier League elite and be stuck playing Under-23 football - will be the future of England’s midfield and is an undisputed first-choice for new BVB boss Marco Rose.

Already he finds himself being talked about as a potential £100million player, with the expectation that, sooner rather than later, one of the Premier League’s biggest will come calling. And, make no mistake they will.

Jude Bellingham in discussion with BVB boss Marco Rose (REUTERS)

Often with young players it is about the mental side. Do they make the right choices? How do they respond to adversity? The latter is often key to assessors and analysts, to coaches and scouts; all talented youngsters can perform when things are going well, but what do they do when they encounter a problem.

Against Besiktas on Wednesday evening, Bellingham found himself a little lost early on. Operating on the right side of a lop-sided midfield, Dortmund’s No.22 found himself doing sprints to cover the flank, before sprinting back into the midfield to cover the centre. Positionally, the space between he and full-back Thomas Meunier was being exploited by the home side, and the duo were seeing little of the ball themselves.

Then they did.

Dortmund put together some passes on the left, worked it across to the right with Dahoud’s fine diagonal out to Meunier, who clipped a ball through the inside right channel to the onrushing Bellingham. A fine touch on the chest engineered space in the penalty area, and a low blast sent the ball into the net, handing Dortmund the lead.

After 20 minutes of difficulty, it was ruthlessly brilliant, technically outstanding, unerring.

Bellingham celebrates scoring Dortmund's opener (Getty Images)

Promptly, Rose switched his position - as he had been planning before the goal - moving Bellingham in alongside Dahoud into his preferred central spot and switching Julian Brandt over to the right. There, he was outstanding for 25 minutes, winning tackles, powering forward, stamping his mark on proceedings, running all over Miralem Pjanic, who couldn't cope with his athleticism and dynamism.

On the stroke of half-time, he provided another decisive moment, taking possession under pressure, evading his marker and entering the penalty area, riding a challenge before picking out Haaland to double the lead, the Norwegian netting what, ultimately proved to be the winner.

From adversity, he had produced a personal masterclass, grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and taking over, bending it to his will.

Dortmund held on to win in the second period, despite Besiktas’ injury time consolation from Francisco Montero. Bellingham had long since departed, subbed off in the 70th minute to rest for the weekend; still he was named man of the match.

"The most important thing is that we won the game, that was our job today," he said post-game. "It's so much fun to win football matches with Borussia Dortmund. We have to continue like this."

In a tough group, the teenager's desire, mental toughness and skill proved crucial in getting BVB off to the perfect start. It was another reminder of Bellingham’s indefatigable ability and maturity, even when it isn’t all going to plan.


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