Jude Bellingham has enjoyed a very decent start to life in Germany since his £20m move to Borussia Dortmund last summer.
Birmingham City’s youngest ever player became the world’s most expensive 17-year-old when he swapped the Championship for the Bundesliga back in July. And for good reason.
Making your debut in midfield as a 16-year-old in the famously physical English second tier is no easy task. Playing a full season there at 16 and not just holding your own, but excelling, is nothing short of remarkable.
The Blues infamously retired Bellingham’s No 22 shirt number when he left the club, signalling exactly how much of an impact the youngster had there.
Bellingham ensured that world football sat up and took notice of him.
Signing for Borussia Dortmund ahead of the likes of Manchester United was an indication of the teen’s character. He made the level-headed decision to sign for the team that was best set-up for him to develop at, rather than chasing the money elsewhere.
Surprisingly, Bellingham was thrown straight into the first-team at the Signal Iduna Park. Injuries to Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney meant that Dortmund didn’t have much choice but to play their new boy, but again he has not looked out of place.
In essence, a 17-year-old kid has been trusted to become a regular for one of the world’s best teams.
And it’s not like he is stuck out on the wing, where he can drift in and out of games. He is in the middle of the park, competing physically with some of the world’s best midfielders.
Every piece of evidence out there is pointing towards Jude Bellingham becoming one of the very finest centre-midfielders in world football.
Henderson nearing the end of his Liverpool career
Meanwhile, back in Bellingham’s homeland of England, Jordan Henderson is still as influential as ever to a Liverpool side derailed by injury.
Key defensive injuries have meant that the skipper has been forced to play out-of-position at centre-back recently. His presence has been sorely missed in midfield, contributing to Liverpool’s title ambitions looking doomed already.
Henderson is a world-class midfielder. He can fill numerous roles and has an exceptionally broad skill set.
Top teams need their central midfielders to contribute going forward but also work incredibly hard defensively. Liverpool are blessed to have Henderson, who does both to great measure.
He is also one of the very best leaders in the world. Henderson sets the tone with his own performances but is also incredibly vocal in encouraging his teammates and keeping them tuned in.
At 30-years-old, the Sunderland man probably only has this season plus two more at the very top. After that, he can probably do what James Milner is doing now – playing here and there, but not the first name on the teamsheet.
Liverpool need to start thinking about how they can replace his football skills but also his leadership.
So Henderson will likely leave the club in 2024 as a 34-year-old. It is the year that Jurgen Klopp will probably leave too. Liverpool will have to have a contingency plan in place at least a year in advance.
Would Bellingham fit the bill?
Considering how good he is at 17, Bellingham could potentially be world-class at just 21.
The fact that he is already producing good numbers for a top European team at 17 years of age points towards him becoming a genuine megastar.
What he is doing is basically unheard of for central midfielders. All you need to do is look at the top midfielders in the world right now for proof.
Henderson didn’t show his true class until 2013/14, when he was 23. While he may be past his best now, Luka Modric was 22 before he moved to Spurs and almost 30 when he hit his peak.
There are a lot of excellent young midfielders around at the moment. Think of Phil Foden at Manchester City or Eduardo Camavinga at Rennes. Both of them are outstanding talents, but neither have the match intelligence of Bellingham nor are they as well-rounded as him.
The majority of young midfielders are No 10s that struggle with the defensive aspect of football. Bellingham does the defensive work excellently.
He covers the ground and works hard, plus he isn’t afraid of getting stuck in. He is making 3.6 tackles and interceptions per 90, a very decent number.
His attacking contribution is also very good. He has picked up three assists this season. He completes 1.1 dribbles, plus a shot and a key pass per game as well.
Bellingham is playing in a double pivot most often. He would be even better as a no 8 in a 433, as the midfield duties would be shared with an extra player.
Learning the German game will benefit him greatly. Dortmund is a great place to learn. It is an excellent stepping stone before playing for Liverpool due to the similar style of play.
Homegrown status a big factor
Another reason that Jude Bellingham would be a great signing is the fact that he is homegrown.
English teams need to fulfil a homegrown quota of players in their squads for both the Premier League and the Champions League. So when signing new players, Liverpool need to consider this fact.
Ideally, the top English teams would have the top English players. This means that, rather than having a foreign star at the club and settling for average homegrown squad players, they can have the best English players and use the slots afforded to foreign players to fill the squad with better quality.
Right now, Liverpool benefit from having the best English midfielder there is. So, they should try to get the next great English midfielder in order to avoid an administrative nightmare.
If Liverpool can build a future around Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Bellingham, they will be able to afford signing top foreign players to fill the squad rather than using poorer English players.
It also helps from a squad moral perspective. The British core at the club right now has done excellent work in uniting the squad to create a band of brothers.
Ideally, come summer 2023, Jude Bellingham will be a Liverpool player. He will have a year to learn under Henderson and Klopp, before filling the skipper’s boots.
It also looks likely that the man replacing Klopp in the dugout will be Steven Gerrard.
If Bellingham and Liverpool didn’t already feel like a match made in heaven, it certainly does now.