Jude Bellingham: The man Real Madrid are already calling 'The Boss' – The Telegraph

The England midfielder has made a flying start to his Real Madrid career and scored a late winner on his Santiago Bernabéu debut on Saturday
Jude Bellingham made his Santiago Bernabéu debut for Real Madrid on Saturday, and what a debut it was.
The afternoon kick-off against Getafe was the first time the midfielder played at the club’s own stadium since his move, for up to £115 million, which already feels like a bargain, from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
Building work at the Santiago Bernabéu has meant Madrid have had to play their first three league games away from home. They have won all three. Bellingham has scored in all three (four goals in total) before adding another against Getafe in spectacular fashion in the 95th minute. Earlier this week he won La Liga player of the month, in his first month in Spain, becoming the first Englishman ever to do so.
Already Bellingham is being referred to as “el jefe”, the boss, and the impact he has had at Madrid is, even this early, simply extraordinary – not least in the way that this assured young man from Stourbridge, near Birmingham, has embraced Spanish culture.
“He’s out of the ordinary,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said in that relaxed style of his and he meant it in more ways than one.
Bellingham has:
It was only ever going to be Real Madrid for Bellingham once they firmed up their interest. In June, at his unveiling following his signing, with his father Mark, mother Denise and brother Jobe, who recently joined Sunderland, in the front row Bellingham talked of it being “the best day of my life”. He meant it.
His press conference also revealed his personality. Bellingham is grounded, respectful, focused on his football but is also able to pitch what he says in the right way and has a rare understanding of football history.
Bellingham also raised eyebrows by choosing the No 5 shirt, made iconic at Madrid by Zinedine Zidane. After all, Bellingham was not even born when Zidane scored that brilliant volley to win the Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002.
The Zidane comparison has been made in Spain but it pre-dates Bellingham’s arrival. As he grew up he genuinely studied YouTube clips of the French midfielder and idolised him and the way he played, dreaming of emulating him one day at Madrid. That shirt meant everything and Bellingham nervously spoke to Zidane after the 2022 Champions League final when Madrid beat Liverpool.
It also meant that, in truth, despite huge interest from the Premier League – led by Manchester City who were prepared to pay whatever it took to get Bellingham and would have sacrificed Bernardo Silva as well as Ilkay Gundogan to do so – Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea there was only one club for Bellingham once their interest was concrete 18 months ago.
Bellingham has also been smart. His move from Birmingham City to Borussia Dortmund before he had even turned 17 was astute but also brave. It took him to a big European club, one where he would gain Champions League experience, and where expectation and exposure would grow but would be manageable. Once he had embraced that challenge, with a different language and in a city where football is so dominant, it helped make the next step easier.
But it was still a huge step. The biggest club in the world, Bellingham said, where the limelight is brightest and relentless. And can be very harsh, also. But his move was shrewdly timed. Madrid are changing. Bellingham was first wanted by head scout Juni Calafat, who first visited him last year and who has been transitioning Madrid into a younger team. He was behind the signings of Vinicius, Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni, Fede Valverde and Rodrygo – all under 25.
Bellingham is therefore at the vanguard of a new type of Galactico. In fact, Madrid are in danger of making themselves popular among the neutrals – from Ancelotti in the dug-out to Modric and Vinicius on the pitch. And now Bellingham. All are regarded as good football role models.
It has helped Bellingham settle as has Ancelotti’s assured man-management. There is no doubt Bellingham has walked into an easier dressing room than Gareth Bale did in 2013 when Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos were dominant. Now the dressing room is more international, younger and the senior players are Modric and Kroos, who both speak perfect English, and are more inclusive.
Bellingham has quickly sought them out. He regards them as the two best midfielders of their generation and so being with them gives him the opportunity to learn – clips of Bellingham applauding Kroos’ sublime pass to Vinicius during a pre-season game against Juventus went viral, for example, and it is the same on the training ground.
Bellingham naturally gravitates towards older, experienced players – as he has done with England where he has a strong relationship with Jordan Henderson. At the same time, he socialises easily with those his own age and was pictured with Tchouameni and Rodrygo in a beach bar in St Tropez.
When Karim Benzema left Madrid, they lost not just their captain but their main source of goals. “I hope my partnership with Jude Bellingham is as successful as the one I had with Karim Benzema,” Vinicius said, in a ringing endorsement, and it is remarkable how quickly the pair have bonded with Bellingham playing in a different role, the No.10 in a midfield diamond behind the Brazilian as Ancelotti has shifted his tactics.
From the moment Bellingham marked his goal on his debut in the 2-0 win away to Athletic Bilbao by celebrating with his arms outstretched in front of the home fans – a celebration he first used in Dortmund and which was spontaneous – it was clear he belonged. An impressed Vinicius has even copied it, because of what it symbolised.
Social media has gone into overdrive. It is hardly the most important aspect of Bellingham being at Madrid but it has been noted at the club how comfortable he is in front of the camera and how natural he is with new media. Bellingham has delivered messages in Spanish, and is determined to learn, has stopped to sign autographs and tried to converse. It has all gone brilliantly.
Bellingham understood from the very start that going to Madrid meant he had to embrace the whole experience – in the way Steve McManaman did, but in contrast to other British players – while Spain has delighted in seeing a young Englishman adapt so quickly.
In another example of this, Bellingham sends out his own tweets because he wants to do it organically and authentically and so he has a consistent voice. He knows how to engage because he is of that generation. He is on point.
But there is a very clear line. Understandably, Bellingham has been inundated with commercial opportunities but has a very defined approach: less is more. He is determined to concentrate on his football, appreciates the scale of club he plays for and knows everything else is secondary. There is no financial motive.
At Madrid they freely admit they did not expect this level of impact so soon and the club was impressed, for example, by the way he ushered Kepa Arrizabalaga over to the fans after the goalkeeper kept a clean sheet on his debut away to Celta Vigo, where Bellingham scored the only goal. It was an act that fuelled the belief he could one day captain the side, having already been the youngest player in Bundesliga history to do so at Dortmund.
After that game, Bellingham was again pitch perfect with his social media post. “Love a late winner,” he wrote. “Time to see my new home.” He did see his new home; the Bernabéu. It is a grand stage which he looks like he was born to grace.


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