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Jude Bellingham. SUR
Two shining lights
Opinion

Two shining lights

Jude Bellingham is making the most incredible impact at Real Madrid and over in Barcelona Lamine Yamal is setting new standards for teenage expectations

Rob Palmer

Friday, 1 September 2023, 21:34

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Amid the storm of negative news raining down on Spanish football, there are two beacons of light that are going almost unnoticed beyond the country’s borders.

Jude Bellingham is making the most incredible impact at Real Madrid; over in Barcelona, Lamine Yamal is setting new standards for teenage expectations.

Bellingham would have been excused for easing his way into life at the world’s most demanding club. It’s not that he’s hit the ground running, he’s hit the ground sprinting and scoring. A goal on his debut against Athletic Bilbao was followed by a brace against Almeria and topped by the game winning goals in Vigo against Celta.

It’s four goals and an assist in his opening 3 games. It’s a record matched only by Cristiano Ronaldo when he joined the club back in 2009.

The way he’s developing, he could become the greatest English footballer ever. I realise that is a bold statement, but he just keeps leaping to another level. He scored in each of his last four appearances for Borussia Dortmund so it’s now eight goals in his last seven club games. Goal-getting isn’t even a recognised strength of an all-round player.

It was expected that he would eventually take the reins from Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić, however the legends are having to fight each other for game time as Bellingham is one of the first names on the team sheet. He’s set to lead Real for many years to come and appears to be destined for captaincy as he was in Dortmund when he became the youngest skipper in Bundesliga history.

Bellingham is the baby of the Madrid team, but he’s a veteran compared to the latest sensation at Barcelona - Yamal is only just 16 and holding a place in the team on merit. He was the inspiration behind the thrilling 4-3 victory over Villarreal with two assists in an outstanding performance.

I commentated on his debut last season when he was aged only 15, nine months and 16 days old. His impact was immense as he almost scored at the end of his first dribble against Real Betis. I always err on the side of caution and avoid hyperbole when a teenager is introduced. This boy seems to be the real deal with abilities that are comparable to Messi.

There have been other sensations in recent years who’ve all had issues to deal with and Barça will hopefully have learned lessons. Pedri played 52 club games in his first season and extended the campaign by reaching the semi-final of the Euros and the Olympic final. His teenage body didn’t react well and injuries curtailed last season.

Ansu Fati created mass excitement when he became the youngest player to feature in the Champions League, then became the youngest scorer in the elite competition with a winner against Inter Milan. At seventeen he’d scored a “Clásico” goal. He was handed Messi’s number 10 shirt and a contract to 2027 with a €1 billion buy out deal. But, three years later, he’s packing his bags for a gap year in Brighton - and his value is a fraction of the buy-out.

Hopefully, the club’s have learned from the Pedri/Fati experiences and both Bellingham and Lamal will not be over-played as they develop at a pace in line with the age of their bodies. If all goes according to plan, these are the early days of two generational talents.

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