Some players are just made to play for Real Madrid. It takes a certain type of character to thrive in the Spanish capital. The pressure of being a Galactico has crushed several players in the past, but it seems unlikely Jude Bellingham will become another one. Indeed, the young Englishman is already growing as a leader for Los Blancos.
Bellingham was one of the big prizes of this summer’s transfer window. Liverpool chased the midfielder for a long time while Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United were all linked at one time or another. Real Madrid, however, paid somewhere in the region of €130m to land a generational talent in the shape of Bellingham.
Despite being just 20 years old, Bellingham carries himself with the air of a player much older. He was something of a leader for England at the 2022 World Cup and was a driving force for Borussia Dortmund as they fell agonisingly short of winning the Bundesliga title. This was clear on the pitch and in the media.
This is a role Bellingham has already assumed as a Real Madrid player in pre-season. He was a dominant figure in his new team’s victory over Manchester United and has become one of the Spanish media’s favourite figures for a quote. He’s been praised by some journalists as the “least English Englishman” to ever join Real Madrid.
Englishmen have played for Los Blancos before, but none have been so quick to integrate themselves into the culture of the club and the country as a whole. Bellingham is learning Spanish just as he learned German while playing for Dortmund. He has even started dropping some Spanish words into his media interviews (something neither Michael Owen nor Gareth Bale ever did as British players in Spain).
In his own words, Bellingham has left his “comfort zone” to sign for Real Madrid, but that has already worked for him once before. Indeed, his decision to join Dortmund from Birmingham City forced the midfielder to mature. He is the player and person he is today because of the challenges he has set for himself.
Real Madrid have focused on signing young players in recent times with Bellingham the latest star under the age of 21 to pitch up at the Santiago Bernabeu. The 20-year-old has been bought for the here and now, though. Bellingham makes Real Madrid a better team. He will start most matches for them this season.
“It is rare to find player with this kind of quality,” said Carlo Ancelotti when asked about the impression Bellingham has made at Real Madrid since joining earlier this summer. “He is only 20, so he can improve. We are lucky to have him in our squad. He was fantastic. He has a lot of rhythm, moves well and has quality finding open spaces.”
There’s no doubting Bellingham is a special talent. He is a key figure for England and has been signed to be the same for Real Madrid. A €130m transfer fee made Bellingham the most expensive English player in history, but that represents an investment in the next 10 years for Real Madrid. They can build around Bellingham.
Real Madrid have got themselves more than just a world class player, though. With Karim Benzema leaving the club this summer, and the likes of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric expected to depart at some point in the near future, there was the risk of a leadership vacuum opening up at the Santiago Bernabeu. In Bellingham, Los Blancos now have someone to fill that vacuum before it has even appeared.