Madrid’s Bellingham ready to make the difference against Man City

Madrid’s Bellingham ready

I don’t think it’s particularly widely known or properly understood, but Jude Bellingham was always “scheduled” to play in Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg at the Etihad Stadium. It had to be for Manchester City against Real Madrid instead of the Spanish champions-elect traveling to Bellingham in the north-west of England this week.

Last January I had coffee with an undisputed Manchester City source who, when pressed and prompted, admitted that City could make some subsidiary trades during the summer of 2023, but only two absolute “must-haves”. The “buy” targets were Josco Guardiol and Bellingham.

One said yes, Guardiol, and one said: no: Jude the dude. Any club, no matter how huge, can be forced to feel the sting of rejection. While top players have a range of options, it’s certainly a seller’s market – no matter your club’s history or wealth, it’s quite possible to miss out on a transfer-market objective.

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But once you put aside City’s willingness to pay surprise wages to their key targets, the concept of a young, talented and ambitious Englishman rejecting the offer to work and learn under Pep Guardiola and leave for his There is a possibility of winning at least two trophies in the first season. Very extraordinary. By the summer of 2023, Guardiola had been in charge for seven years and had won 14 trophies – an average of two per season.

What happened, and I feel infinitely responsible here, was that Bellingham had decided, even before telling Guardiola how important he could be to City, that if Borussia Dortmund were to move to Madrid If there was any possibility of exchange, he was without any. Question, going to prioritize Los Blancos above any other team in the world.

responsibility? Well, during that period Spanish football was becoming the best, most exciting, most winning, most technically advanced and interesting football on the planet, I was lucky enough to work as a part of Sky Sports’ LaLiga coverage in the UK. Was fortunate – a steady 21 -broadcast of live matches every year since 1997, plus I think there was a fantastic weekly magazine show called “Revista de la Liga”.

I remember, during that golden era, I would regularly tell people (fans, the media and lots of people in the football industry) that I strongly hoped that there would be 21 years of extraordinary, good music flowing into homes across Britain. This stream of well-analyzed football will fundamentally inspire and bring about change. How fans, coaches, players, and media thought and talked about the game we loved. I believed LaLiga would have a seismic impact. Big waves in the pond.

My first interview with Bellingham this season came after Madrid beat Union Berlin 1-0 in their Group C match, with the Englishman scoring the 94th-minute winner on his Champions League debut for the 14-time European champions. Had scored a goal. It was dramatic, and a proud moment for the 20-year-old just a month into his first season at the Bernabeu.

He told me that “since I was a kid” he had a TV in his room on which he had watched “Madrid comebacks countless times in situations where you’re saying ‘There’s no way they’re going to change this. Will give.” !” Sky Sports LaLiga Impact. The incredibly late victory at Berlin, in particular, was what inspired him. Specifically, this was exactly what he chose to do when he signed for Madrid.

Bellingham, like Gareth Bale before him, was completely captivated by the magic of Real Madrid’s history – the European dominance, the battle with Barcelona, the iconic white shirt, the continuous series of great footballers of all time in Los Blancos’ books. I was fascinated by the opportunity to write my name in that history. You can easily imagine.

Madrid's Bellingham ready
Jude Bellingham had a quiet night by his standards in the first leg of Real Madrid’s Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City, but don’t bet against him being decisive in the decider this week.

So, now, here we are. Madrid must beat City at its headquarters and then face Barcelona in a Clasico on Sunday (live stream on ESPN+ beginning at 2 p.m. ET). Precisely the ultra-important, potentially historic moment Bellingham joined this club to impress. And he has arrived in Manchester when his energy and sharpness have worn off a bit.

Very few top athletes or coaches will admit to motives above and beyond winning an important match, medal or final – but they are human. The pasta is important but the sauce adds flavor, never let them mess with you, they don’t. In other words, Bellingham – along with Toni Kroos, Vinicius Junior, Eduardo Camavinga, Antonio Rudiger and others – have a driving objective this week: eliminate the European champions and advance to the semi-finals. But that’s not all, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, Bellingham was criticized by Guardiola, City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain, his England teammates Phil Foden and Kyle Wolk.

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And perhaps most of all he will feel the desire to prove to himself that not only he had decided to choose Madri.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, Bellingham will feel a desire to prove to Guardiola, City director of football Txiki Begiristain, his England teammates Phil Foden and Kyle Walker and perhaps most of all to himself that choosing Madrid is not only His decision was right. English champions but he can display it at City’s headquarters in Manchester.

The 20-year-old has performed brilliantly this season – when he joined Madrid I told LaLiga TV that an incident happened and I think that has been proven 10 times over. To change culture, language and climate, to play at the most hot-house, political, bizarre club in the world, to face not only but, in a matter of a few weeks, two or three of the most important, most trusted footballers. to become a. At Real Madrid – this is an extraordinary achievement.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti, realizing how impressive, how mature, how tenacious his new recruit is, has set about squeezing every last drop out of Bellingham. I think this will harm the player.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Englishman’s attitude, ideas or level of performance – in fact, if he had played like he has in the last few games throughout the season then by May people would be saying, “That’s impressive, he has adapted, “He has contributed and there are even bigger things ahead.”

The problem is that Bellingham has set such extraordinary standards for himself that when the heavy workload he carries (3,000 minutes, being the fourth most capped player, even after 38 days out injured, and contributing 30 goals) ) takes effect, and the needle moves even marginally lower, then the Spanish media reports it as if it is some kind of panic-inducing crisis. Nitwits.

It is not his statistics – certainly not these alone – that mark this first season in Spain as epoch-making. That’s Jude’s chutzpah. It’s his absolute, head-over-heels mutual love affair with the Madrid support, it’s his vision, his ambition, his self-belief, it’s the fun he brings to football and the fact that he charms when Experiences intelligence and joy, interacts with the media.

The fact is that no one at Madrid, even seniors like Kroos and Luka Modric, is immune to his charms nor will they escape his critical eye if they fail to meet his standards. Highly motivated, highly demanding. He also has a shoulder problem that stemmed from a heavy fall against Rayo Vallecano since November.

From that day to the present day he has been playing through pain, his left shoulder supported by a tight-fitting sports-brace and, in my opinion, it all gradually builds on the extraordinary performance shown by Bellingham from the first day in Spain. Lowering the level. , Virtually no one outside the club has properly emphasized how debilitating and exhausting it can be.

Furthermore, I think that the constant slight pain in his shoulder, as well as his wicked desire to win and the fact that he is not getting proper support from the Spanish referees, all together account for how often the Englishman has been in trouble in recent times. Weeks have been ripe for sniping and showing off his short-fuse.

In my opinion this is a healthy sign. He is confident in his surroundings, he is highly competitive and has a fiery temper when he is not happy with something. All of these traits are integral to the winning-DNA that Bellingham possesses. But his anger cannot be so severe that it becomes a distraction.

Ancelotti’s comment at the start of this season was: “Bellingham is a fighter, a winner, who sometimes, when he is not able to ensure that we win matches, he lets it get to him.”


But we are entering a moment when Bellingham, even though 20 years old and in his first season, should be one of the men who ensure that Madrid wins a match. Against a reigning champion, one that, with any old win, would put Los Blancos into the semi-finals [again] and one that would allow him to shake Guardiola’s hand, look him in the eyes and say: “Sorry to snub you. Two peps, but look what you missed! Do you understand my decision now?”

And then, maybe he can win a Clasico for Madrid, like his goal belter at Barcelona helped them?

On Wednesday’s big night, I wish him well. But whether or not he has the right stuff to knock out City and Madrid, it will be an absolutely extraordinary season for the Englishman abroad.

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