The question was simple, rhetorical and posed with a mixture of arrogance and authority: “Does Jude Bellingham want to win the Ballon d’Or?”.
When you note which club has hosted the most honor recipients, the opening gambit hiring manager’s choice sings.
Real Madrid will position their offer for Bellingham – Europe’s most coveted young midfielder – as their opportunity to become the best player in the world in the place that breeds champions.
And those tasked with helping the 19-year-old make the smartest decision about his future state, there’s no better sales pitch: he doesn’t care where he could cash in the most. big paycheck, but where he will be challenged to become the optimal version of himself.
Bellingham did not hide this from potential suitors in private and in public. “I want to earn a lot more and I want to keep pushing the limits of my potential and my talent,” he said recently.
Bellingham’s strength of character and clarity of what he wants from his career was key to him joining Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2020.
Manchester United had offered him more lucrative terms, offered him a visit from Carrington and an audience with Sir Alex Ferguson. BVB have distilled their push into a plan outlining how they will help his development and make him a full international within two years.
He would be armed with European experience and a number of minutes that many senior players on the continent would envy.
Bellingham spent months studying the two clubs, as well as others who had approached his father Mark, from a purely footballing perspective. How did they use the ball, how did they react to losing it, where could it fit, how would its gifts be maximized and its weaknesses eroded?
Bellingham will undergo the same process now on a different scale due to the fee – in excess of £100m – that his talent now commands.
Real’s charm offensive has already begun and there is great seduction in becoming, as club management call him, ‘the next midfielder of the stars’. Casemiro is gone, Luka Modric is 37 and Toni Kroos wants to retire at the Bernabeu even though he’s aware he’s part of the present and the past but not the future.
Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelian Tchouameni and Federico Valverde will carry Real forward, with the hierarchy of Florentino Perez, Juni Calafat and Jose Angel Sanchez wanting Bellingham to be the golden thread.
They have the angle of European royalty and haven’t been shy about pointing out Kylian Mbappe’s misery this season following his decision to snub them and accept a tantalizing extension at Paris Saint-Germain blanketed in a level of foolish influence.
The France international was also told he would be front and center for the Ballon d’Or if he joined Real and would know what it felt like to ‘own the Champions League’.
Mbappe, say the Spaniards, opted for power and a bloated bank balance rather than ‘the sporting project’ and that should serve as a lesson.
PSG have a Ballon d’Or winner in Lionel Messi, but that’s simply because he signed up with the club in the 2021 edition, which recognized his exploits with Argentina, and on a lesser level, Barcelona.
The only player to win the award apart from operating for the La Liga giants was Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008.
Erling Haaland could change that stat at neighbors City, and it’s Pep Guardiola’s side that Real see as the most serious threat to them as they secure Bellingham.
Perez’s fears about the power of state-funded clubs are well documented, but it’s not the monetary element that is of concern in this regard. City are incredibly smart, well-structured and have a degree of stability through the operation that isn’t necessarily associated with Real.
Guardiola is a longtime admirer of Bellingham, already assessing two years ago: “He’s so good for 17, he’s a fantastic player. There was a time when he didn’t win the ball from the centre-backs, how he screams and demands the ball for him at 17 means a lot.
“I spoke with his manager, Edin Terzic, and he told me that what you see in these two games is like every training session.
City are preparing a midfield refresh as Ilkay Gundogan’s contract runs out at the end of the season, Kevin De Bruyne turns 31 and Bernardo Silva has explored options to leave the Etihad in recent campaigns. Guardiola underlined the importance of evolution to keep his team as a benchmark.
Bellingham already has phenomenal chemistry with Haaland on and off the pitch, while it’s impossible to say he wouldn’t ‘earn a lot more’ and ‘push the limits of my own potential and talent’ at City.
United, meanwhile, have never wavered their interest in Bellingham. Their main priority this summer is to add an elite striker, but they are confident they can fight for the best options on the market in every department under Erik ten Hag.
Liverpool’s record on the England international dates back to his time at Birmingham academy and they are the top club most desperate for midfield surgery.
The Merseysiders are also seen as the team that have done the most work over a long period behind the scenes to break through the player decision-making process.
Jürgen Klopp had admitted this summer that there was only one problem with trying to sign Bellingham: “He’s not in the market, so that’s the first problem with this player. Well, the only problem with this player!”
When the manager committed his future at the club until 2026, Liverpool believed it offered an extra layer of certainty and continuity to his recruitment ambitions and his ability to attract popular targets.
Their lack of identity on the pitch so far this season and early concerns over whether they will finish in the top four could be problematic and undermine that – especially given the financial outlay needed to ensnare him. Even if Liverpool are able to fix their form, can they afford to spend the amount in question on a player given the other pinches and tucks the team needs?
As to whether a few months of mediocre play will make a huge difference, ‘Team Bellingham’ are known for sifting through years of club research to gain insight into methodology rather than making snap decisions based on over-performance or under-performance. -performance.
Steven Gerrard is the midfield idol but the teenager won’t let sentiment sway him.
A family friend said sky sports“The way to win Jude’s heart is to sell the football plan to his head.”
He also reported that none of the stories about Bellingham’s future were torched by the Stourbridge native or his side. This stems solely from his displays, which not only surpass those of a similar age, but the best players in the game.
In Europe’s top five divisions and the Champions League, only Joshua Kimmich has gained more possession in the final third than Bellingham, who also ranks second in completed takes.
Deeper than the data and evidence before our eyes is the fact, as Guardiola alluded to, that he is already a leader and yearns for accountability.
Sam Manoochehri oversaw Bellingham’s progress for four years as a former youth development coach at Birmingham City.
“I have never seen a more elitist mentality than his,” he assessed. “When I worked with him, when something was difficult, he loved it. I remember games where he wanted to play in midfield to test himself.
“Jude would actively seek out the challenge without having to be pushed by the coaching staff.”
Michael Dodds, the Birmingham academy manager, would add: “He always wanted better sessions, more comebacks, bigger challenges. Nothing was enough, because he constantly needed a test for him.”
Throughout the English setup there is a desire to have Bellingham at a Premier League club. He is confident he can captain the national team and Real know the lure of returning home could outweigh any glory they can offer.
Bellingham is extremely relaxed about his future. Why shouldn’t he be when there is no shortage of quality destinations and clubs have to convince him that they are the soundest option to help him soar.