Jude Bellingham the best in world? It’s not a stupid question – Gareth Southgate

By Sports Desk October 07, 2023

England boss Gareth Southgate says it is “not a stupid question” to ask whether Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham is the best player in the world right now.

Having impressed at Birmingham and flourished at Borussia Dortmund, the 20-year-old midfielder has gone up another level since his big-money switch to Spain.

Bellingham has immediately established himself as one of Madrid’s main men and has scored 10 goals in 10 matches since moving to the Bernabeu for an initial £88.5million fee.

The midfielder scored a brace in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Osasuna, which will only increase talk of the midfielder being the world’s top player at the moment.

Asked if Bellingham was the best in the world right now, Southgate – speaking before the Real star’s two-goal showing on Saturday – said: “I wondered if you might say that!

“No, it’s not a stupid question. I haven’t seen everybody and studied everybody playing.

“All I can say is he’s at one of the biggest clubs in the world, arguably the biggest, and he’s playing exceptionally well and he’s currently the match-winner for them so he’s in a brilliant place.”

Bellingham has quickly established himself as a fan favourite at the Bernabeu, where he has added more goals to his game playing in a more advanced position.

The 20-year-old scored a solo stunner in Tuesday’s 3-2 Champions League win at Napoli, with Spanish media comparing him to Diego Maradona and Alfredo Di Stefano.

“He’s playing higher,” Southgate said. “We played him higher against Scotland, he had that freedom in the Ukraine game as well, we didn’t use the game well enough in the final third.

“But he’s always looked dangerous and had an impact around the opposing box with Dortmund and with us, without looking quite as calm as he has this season in front of goal.

“It’s brilliant to have people who can win games.

“He’s been the match-winner for Real Madrid and the start for him has been absolutely phenomenal. I’m chuffed to bits for him.”

Asked if Bellingham is a number 10 who could play up top on his own without a number nine, the England boss said: “Well, there are lots of different number 10s, aren’t there?

“The 10s I played against, (Dennis) Bergkamp, (Gianfranco) Zola probably were forwards that dropped deeper rather than the other way round.

“Jude is a more powerful player than those, slightly different. More of a midfield player, who’s going to make midfield runs. That doesn’t mean he’s any less effective, as we’ve seen.

“Their team have found a nice balance with the athletic midfield they have behind and, having lost (Karim) Benzema as they did and lost Vinicius (to injury) as they did, they have been adapting.

“He’s been defending on the left wing in a couple of games and I can just imagine the reaction from all and sundry if I asked him to do that!

“So, look, he’s doing brilliantly well and that’s the beauty of some of the options we’ve got. We can play players in different positions. They’re good players so they can adapt.”

Bellingham will now join up with England for a Wembley double-header, with Friday’s friendly against Australia followed by a Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy.

Southgate largely stuck with the tried and tested with his selection for October’s fixtures, meaning vice-captain Jordan Henderson kept his place after his controversial move to Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia.

“His physical data is fine,” Southgate said of the former Liverpool skipper. “The games are not at the same intensity as the games here. The heat is part of that.

“There are two or three drinks breaks per game, which is an indication of the climate, and that his having an impact on how teams play.

“It is a situation that we are tracking closely. I will go out and watch games. But we get all his games the same way we get everybody else’s.

“That’s a longer trip and in these first couple of months we’ve felt it more important to see as many games live as we can, as quickly as possible, by getting around our country more.

“But as time moves on, we’ll get to more of the Milans, the Madrids and the Bayern Munichs, as well as out to see Hendo.”

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