Over the past ten days, Jude Bellingham has underlined why Borussia Dortmund believe he is heading towards the same £100 million price bracket as Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland.
He was superb at the Etihad Stadium for the Champions League semi-final first leg versus Manchester City, and then at the weekend he scored his first Bundesliga goal in a 3-2 win at Stuttgart. On Wednesday night at Signal Iduna Park he produced another outstanding display and scored his first Champions League goal.
Anyone watching would have come away with an understanding of why Bellingham is widely considered the best 17-year-old footballer on the planet right now.
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He is the whole package as a midfielder and plays with the nous and attitude of someone in their mid-20s. He wears the number 22 because he can play the role of a traditional No.4, No.8 and No.10 - and he has certainly been showcasing all necessary traits. Those strengths, combined with his maturity, have always made an impact on people.
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Bellingham has been pushing the limits of his ability for the entirety of his teenage years.
He played for England under-15s as a 13-year-old. He played for Birmingham City’s under-18s when he was 14. He became the Blues’ youngest ever first-team player aged 16 years and 38 days. In November, at Wembley Stadium, he made his England debut, aged 17.
Right now there are figures at Manchester United who are desperately disappointed he is not playing in a red shirt at Old Trafford.
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They took all the steps they felt were needed to land him. They began scouting him extensively in 2017 and as he made his professional breakthrough at Birmingham they stepped up the pursuit, meeting him and his family members to sell their vision of the future at the Theatre of Dreams.
Bellingham was flattered and, of course, gave it some consideration. United thought they had him but in the end it was the project at Dortmund - who had also been on his tail for over two years - that really won him over. In the back of his mind, it is understood Bellingham had some nagging doubts about whether he would truly get first team opportunities at United as quickly and regularly as he craved them.
There had been plenty of other interest, including Manchester City but now, as he makes waves in Germany, it is only natural that he is going to start finding himself at the centre of new transfer speculation.
Dominant, young, reliable central midfielders of Champions League quality are hard to find and Bellingham ticks so many boxes.
Chelsea are the club most interested at this stage as they consider how the side will continue to evolve under Thomas Tuchel. The recruitment team have been thinking about their midfield situation for a while and Frank Lampard saw Declan Rice as the missing piece when he was in charge, though there is a growing feeling that Bellingham could be the better buy.
They know a transfer this summer is going to be difficult, as Dortmund are already trying to figure out what happens with Sancho and Haaland in the transfer market, and the club also plan to build around Bellingham.
Word right now suggests Bellingham will be happy to stay with Dortmund next season, too, even if there is no Champions League football. He has come a long way over the course of this first season and is encouraged by the plans of Marco Rose - who takes over as boss at the end of the season.
But Dortmund always buy players with half an eye on one day selling them and that’s why they can be so pleased with themselves - huge profit is going to be made.
Sources say that as soon as the £25 million agreement was struck to sign Bellingham, it felt like a great piece of business. Within months of watching him, the club realised he had the potential to grow into a £100m player, just as Sancho and Haaland have done.
Liverpool are one of the other clubs keeping an eye on the situation from afar but whenever a big English club does come knocking it will be interesting to see Bellingham’s stance.
He does intend to come back to England to test himself in the Premier League but will only do that when the right opportunity comes along.
Now that we are seeing Bellingham at such a high level, £100m doesn’t seem too ridiculous. He is 17, he is running top level football matches, he will probably head to the European Championship with England.
We are going to be talking about him for years to come. Dortmund just hope he will hang around to grow with them a while longer.
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