Borussia Dortmund are already poised for intense speculation over Erling Haaland’s transfer next year - yet there is another player in their ranks who is also set to become hot property in the market.
Jude Bellingham, 18, has broken through for club and country since moving to Germany from Birmingham City in July 2020. His Bundesliga performances propelled him into the England set-up and speculation is now building around his club future. You have to wonder how much longer Dortmund can expect to keep him.
He is contracted until 2025 and, privately, sources are indicating that there are no plans to sell him any time soon - no matter what offers come in.
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Yet we have seen before with Dortmund that every player does have their price, and English sides do see them as a selling club.
This week Liverpool have also been linked with an £80million move in recent days and it is true that Jurgen Klopp is a huge admirer of the player.
And now knowledgable insiders around Chelsea are expecting the London outfit to ramp up their effort to sign Bellingham in the new year. Additionally, it is understood some of their English players at the club have become increasingly convinced he is being targeted for 2022.
We first reported Chelsea’s interest in April, on the back of his impressive Champions League displays against Manchester City, and since then he has further underlined a maturity in his game that is beyond his years. Chelsea sources believe they would be in a very strong position to sign him if he does look for a transfer.
Interest in Bellingham brings about doubt over whether Chelsea are planning to continue their interest in West Ham midfielder Declan Rice.
It is too early to predict how the situation will open up between now and next summer yet it is an exciting scenario for Chelsea fans to ponder, with both England players clearly on the radar.
Chelsea have had eyes on Bellingham since he was at Birmingham City and are, of course, not the only English club to be monitoring him.
Manchester United tried to sign him before he agreed a move to Dortmund, while Manchester City are also expected to watch his situation closely. Interestingly, all these clubs - United, Liverpool and City - are also looking at Rice.
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Quite what Bellingham will decide at this stage of his career is unclear, yet his rapid rise in the game will have left him in no doubt that he can handle the pressure at any top club.
At the age of 18 he has 41 Championship appearances, 32 Bundesliga outings and 10 Champions League games to his name.
Such club pedigree at such a young age is pretty much unheard of and on top of these impressive numbers comes the fact he is still growing as a player - both physically and mentally.
Dortmund will try to price Bellingham out of a move just as they did with Jadon Sancho and Haaland at moments when they were not ready to lose such key assets.
A £100million price-tag would come as no surprise in the new year, particularly as they know Rice is currently being valued at that same amount by his club in London.
Chelsea’s recent success within the transfer market, aswell as on the pitch, gives them belief they would beat their Premier League rivals to signing the player, if it comes to a battle.
They have the finances, prestige and current set-up to convince pretty much any player of their vision.
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Bellingham’s form for England over the most recent international break gave further reason to believe he is a player destined for the very top yet he may feel more time in Germany would be beneficial to his career plan.
There is no doubt Dortmund’s treatment of him has helped keep the player on a positive projection and with a World Cup coming in Qatar in 2022, it may be that he feels regular guaranteed first-team football there will give him the best possible chance of proving he is worth a place in the England team for that tournament.
Chelsea and others will try to sell it to him differently. He will be told that there is no better stage than the Premier League and that that is where he belongs.
For now Bellingham will continue his growth and his next focus is a domestic fixture with Bayer Leverkusen followed by a Champions League encounter at Besiktas.
Keep watching every step of his journey if you get the chance - as we will be talking about him for years to come.
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