Jude Bellingham. EP
Superhuman superstar: St Jude
A Look at La Liga

Superhuman superstar: St Jude

Bellingham is like no other; his achievements are sensational and there is yet more to come

Rob Palmer / ESPN commentator


Friday, 5 July 2024, 20:03

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The word enigmatic was invented for Jude Bellingham.

The dictionary tells you it describes someone who is "mysterious and difficult to understand".

The young man from the West Midlands is very much an international superstar - a national hero; yet he still has a touch of the devil about him. His achievements are incredible, yet he's a long way from perfection. He's superhuman and a flawed human at the same time.

Celebrating a 21st birthday is normally a life milestone, but for St Jude it is not in the top 10 of his notable days in the past year. The dramatic overhead-kick to equalise against Slovakia when England looked doomed added to the remarkable story.

"It's got to be up there" was his modest reaction when a journalist lazily asked him if it was his best goal ever. The reporter clearly hadn't taken into consideration the life of Jude in the past 12 months.

If Carlo Ancelotti is truthful, he'd probably admit that his plan was to drip-feed Bellingham into the Real Madrid team after his 103-million-euro signing. He was only 20 years old, learning a new language, familiarising himself with a different culture, and experiencing the unique demands of playing for the biggest club in the world.

Bellingham is like no other. He scored a spectacular half-volley on his debut against Athletic Bilbao, rescued the team with a 95th minute winner against Getafe, topped it with two goals in his Clásico debut, the second goal was a stoppage-time winner. His name is already written in folklore.

One television personality with a reputation for stirring things up suggested that Bellingham didn't turn up for the big games. The stats suggest differently with 10 goals in his first 10 games for Real, four in his first four Champions League games, another Clásico winner against Barcelona in April, a hand in Vinícius Júnior's goal in the Champions League final - and now his England exploits.

His achievements are sensational, yet there is plenty of truth in the suggestion that there is more to come and he's not the complete article yet.

If you watch him closely, he can drift in and out of games and even look a little lost. To many pundits, he's an all-action Englishman who soars into the penalty area like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard or Bryan Robson. His goalscoring record backs this up. In his head, he's Zinedine Zidane - who floated around the field rather than covering every inch of grass.

He oozes Madridismo! If you are from the capital, this is a good characterisation, a display of belief and uber-confidence. To others, it is undue arrogance. Bellingham does have a tendency to act as cheerleader to the fans as he waves his arms aloft mid-match. This is fine in the colours of Real but daring when displaying the three-lions crest.

He's overstepped the line in the Bundesliga when criticising a referee and was fined €40,000. He was sent-off after the Valencia game for language that didn't need a translation tool, and got himself into hot-water with a gesture captured by the cameras following the Slovakia success.

So yes, he is a saint, but also a sinner; life and football will never be dull with Jude Bellingham around. He's a brilliant footballer and there's certainly room for improvement.

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