The England International Became Real Madrid’s 2nd Most Expensive Signing Ever
By Jaden Dakwa – LA Soccer Press
Throughout the sport of football, there are numerous players that are considered talented. There are some players that are considered proficient at certain aspects of the game.
Another stratosphere is reserved for players who tick all the boxes, the term would be labeled as a ‘complete’ player. A player who seems to be able to do almost everything on a pitch. Defend, attack, pass, dribble, shoot, scan the field, uses both feet with ease, and other capabilities.
At only 19 years of age, Jude Bellingham seems to be elevating himself into the ‘complete’ category.
Former Manchester United player and pundit Gary Neville spoke about the numerous qualities Bellingham possesses after England’s 3-0 win against Senegal in the Round of 16 of the 2022 World Cup.
“It’s very rare you see a midfielder player as comfortable in his own half as in the attacking half,” Neville said. “He looks like he can do absolutely everything. Is he a holding player? An attacking player? He’s everything in one.”
Bellingham’s versatility is evident. He has featured as a holding midfielder, attacking midfielder, left midfielder, right midfielder, and as a center midfielder. In his established position as a center midfielder, he has excelled.
At Borussia Dortmund, he became a commanding presence at the base of midfield. Bellingham’s tidy work on the ball is magnificent, but the work he does without the ball is just as poignant.
According to Squawka Football, as of May 3rd, Jude Bellingham won more duels than any other center midfielder in Europe’s top five leagues this season. He also completed more take-ons than any other central-midfield player in Europe’s top five leagues in the 2022/2023 season.
These two stats highlight Bellingham’s ability to defend and attack from the center midfield position. The sense of “complete” quality he seems to be approaching is what seemingly attracted the interest of Real Madrid.
There is a noticeable love affair between Bellingham and Madrid that seems to be reciprocated.
Upon his arrival, during Bellingham’s initial press conference, he explained the allure he associates with the Spanish giants.
“The reason I said it’s the proudest day of my life is because it’s the greatest club in the history of the game,” Bellingham said. “Not many players have the chance to play at such a club. So, I’m very grateful and thankful to the people who have brought me and given me this opportunity. It’s not the case that the other teams were bad or not good, but Real Madrid is the greatest.”
He expressed the sentiment of bliss at his decision. He mentioned that he “loved the feeling” he received from the club while exploring the possibility of a transfer.
Bellingham feels like the perfect addition to Madrid’s midfield. There seems to be the requisite depth in the squad heading into a new season. Toni Kroos, 33, and Luka Modric, 37, respectively have both shown the capability to still play at a high level during the previous season. Dani Ceballos also featured throughout the majority of the season.
The young talent in the squad combined with experienced players gives plentiful options to the team.
The prospect of seeing a midfield of Eduardo Camavinga, Aurlien Tchouameni, and Jude Bellingham will leave Real Madrid fans anticipating this combined talent for years to come.
Each player previously named is under the age of 25 and Federico Valverde, 24, who can play multiple positions, can be included in that midfield contingent as well.
Bellingham’s “complete” ability should bring added stability to the midfield. On the ball, he is capable of keeping possession and can help to string passages of play together. Bellingham is not the prototypical, press-resistant, center midfielder that solely looks to control the game through possession. He can continue to improve his passing and become even more efficient to avoid instances where he is losing possession.
In forward positions, Bellingham has demonstrated a high level of quality play. The England international has proven his potential to be threatening in attacking situations. Bellingham ended the 2022/2023 season with 14 goals and seven assists for Borussia Dortmund in all competitions. He is able to shoot from long distances alternating both feet, and he times his forward runs well in the attacking third. Some deep-lying midfielders rarely contribute with goals, but are more focused on being the conductor for build-up play and possession. Bellingham has an attacking presence to his game. He is able to score goals and provides a goal threat from midfield similar to Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard.
There is a superficial element to explore with Bellingham’s game as well. It is evident from the eye test when you watch him play. He is a phenomenal athlete and has a commanding presence in midfield. Bellingham stands at 6’1, which is a relatively imposing height for a footballer. He is quite strong and very quick. These attributes can assist Madrid when in transition for counter attacks or defending transition attacks.
This is also an element of his game that served him extremely well in the Bundesliga. At the top level of football in Germany, teams are adept at transitional and counter attacking football. There is less emphasis on possession, and more focus on stable defending to counter attack the spaces left from the team that is currently in possession of the ball. Compared to other top five leagues in Europe, Bundesliga teams completed the least amount of passes, according to FBref.com.
Pass Completed (in Europe’s top five leagues):
Ligue 1 (France) : 80.1%
Serie A (Italy) : 79.4%
Premier League (England) : 79.3%
La Liga (Spain) : 79.0%
Bundesliga (Germany) : 76.6%
Bellingham is also willing and capable of covering long distances on the pitch. He has an impressive work rate and presses the ball well whenever his team loses the ball. When he is in position to close down on the ball, he is capable of tackling, making interceptions, and blocking passes.
Jude Bellingham’s work rate, offensive abilities, defensive abilities, athleticism, awareness, and other capabilities places him on the verge of becoming a ‘complete’ player. Real Madrid has made a huge financial investment in his ability and versatility. Acquiring him may be the key to the club’s future success.
Photo courtesy of Pedro Castillo – Real Madrid/Getty Images.
Dakwa holds a BS in Journalism from Elon University. He writes about European football for L.A. Soccer Press. Follow him at @JDakwa on Twitter.