Champions League: Jude Bellingham has gone from Birmingham schoolboy to Borussia Dortmund’s main man

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A mural on Cattell Road, a stone’s throw from St Andrew’s, pays tribute to two players whose names will forever be prominent in Birmingham City’s history.

Alongside Trevor Francis, the first £ 1 million player in British football history is the face of Jude Bellingham, who now sets the Champions League ablaze in the Borussia Dortmund livery.

Bellingham is the youngest player ever to represent Blues, debuting in August 2019 at the age of 16 and 38 days.

Jude Bellingham has been a revelation at Borussia Dortmund since coming over from Birmingham

A mural near Birmingham's St Andrew's Stadium pays tribute to the late 17-year-old

A mural near Birmingham’s St Andrew’s Stadium pays tribute to the late 17-year-old

Birmingham was made fun of when, after Bellingham left for Germany on a £ 30 million deal last summer, they decided to retire the No 22 shirt that Bellingham had worn during his only full season in the first team. . How can a player earn that after just 44 appearances?

The gesture doesn’t look so exaggerated now. Bellingham won’t turn 18 until June 29, but at the Etihad Stadium last Tuesday, he shone against Manchester City’s great midfield when Dortmund lost 2-1 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

Dortmund’s star was not Erling Haaland, coveted by every big club in Europe, but a 17-year-old boy from Stourbridge with his eyes on the top prizes for club and country. All over town, Manchester United wondered what could have happened after Bellingham chose Dortmund for them when he left his home club.

As Bellingham has never played in the Premier League, his performance may have surprised some fans of English football, but not those who played with him last season.

“ Last year in practice, he was the best player every day and he was sixteen, so that shows you the ability and mindset he has, ” Blues captain Harlee Dean recalls.

“I’ve never seen anyone like Jude. He was a cut above.

“You get young players who come to train for the first team and you think,” Oh, he’s good, “but then they miss something – but Jude had it all. That’s what a top player is.

‘I haven’t played with too many and I haven’t seen many so young, but it’s a one-off.

The Championship side was made fun of when they announced they were retiring the No. 22 shirt

The Championship side was made fun of when they announced they were retiring the No. 22 shirt

The gesture in honor of Bellingham (center) now doesn't look exaggerated like his shape missiles

The gesture in honor of Bellingham (center) now doesn’t look exaggerated like his shape missiles

“You need a certain amount of arrogance to prove that you are good enough at that age, but Judas is still very humble and level-headed. He cares about the club and has maintained his links with the club and the area.

At that age, you will always have people who question your lack of experience, but Jude was the best player. He deserves everything he gets. I hope he has a very good career. ‘

Bellingham’s approach to his transfer from the field has given him the best chance of success.

When he moved last summer, his mother, Denise, moved with him. Bellingham was stationed in an apartment a short distance from Dortmund’s Hohenbuschei training ground in the upscale Brackel district to the east of the city.

Bellingham immediately wanted to learn German and was taught three times a week during the preseason.

Although these are now less common due to the intensity of Dortmund’s schedule, Bellingham can understand most of what he is told in practice and games, and his conversational German is also improving.

The England international was Dortmund's most impressive player against Manchester City

The England international was Dortmund’s most impressive player against Manchester City

Unsurprisingly, his best friends in the squad are English-speaking: international teammate Jadon Sancho, American forward Gio Reyna and Haaland, who is Norwegian but has a near-perfect command of English.

He has adapted well to German life and has developed a fondness for Schnitzel, a thin slice of meat fried in fat, a national delicacy.

The performance against City was one of Bellingham’s best of what was a tough campaign for the club. Dortmund is used to being Bayern Munich’s biggest challengers, but has been out of pace this season, leading to the dismissal of Lucien Favre in December.

Under interim boss Edin Terzic they are fifth in the Bundesliga, 19 points behind leader Bayern and seven in a Champions League spot.

Bellingham scored his first goal in the league last weekend, appearing in the starting line-up in 15 of his 24 appearances, while establishing himself as Dortmund’s most impressive midfielder.

If he can perform like this in his first season in a foreign league – and only his second full campaign in senior football – then all signs point to a bright future.

“ I remember seeing him in the younger teams in Birmingham and I immediately thought he could train with the first team, ” said former Blues boss Pep Clotet – now head of Italian Serie B side Brescia – who Bellingham delivered his senior debut. ‘As soon as I got the job, I got it.

Teammates and coaches at Birmingham were immediately struck by his talent as he trained

His first Bundesliga goal came at the weekend and is a reward for his impressive performance

His first Bundesliga goal came at the weekend and is a reward for his impressive performance

‘I said then that he was one of the most complete footballers I had ever seen. When I said it, I wondered if I had gone too far. Now, I guess I may not have gone far enough!

‘I am still in touch with him and we were in touch after the Manchester City game. It is not my job to choose the England team, but I would love to see him play in the European Championship. He will certainly play in the Premier League one day. He is exactly the type of player that is in high demand in England. ‘

Life has changed so quickly for Bellingham, who earned around £ 145 a week as a schoolboy in Birmingham, where he combined his education with his studies at the Priory School in the Edgbaston part of the city. Now his weekly wages are around £ 50,000.

Father Mark, who manages his son’s career, has scored over 700 goals for several non-league matches while working as a police officer and the family are Birmingham supporters. Younger brother Jobe, an attacking midfielder, is in the Blues books and has represented England under 15.

Obviously, there are still hurdles to overcome. How does he deal with a growing profile and level of expectations? When – as expected – Haaland leaves Dortmund, Bellingham could take the lead next season. That too will bring a new level of pressure.

But for now, his rise seems unstoppable – and in the years to come, his image will certainly appear on the walls of some of the world’s greatest stadiums.

When Erling Haaland (right) leaves, it appears that Bellingham (left) becomes the main character

When Erling Haaland (right) leaves, it appears that Bellingham (left) becomes the main character