A LOW RISK HIGH FLIER
Southgate loves having Bellingham onside
IF Jude Bellingham needs a final sales pitch before he finds himself at the centre of a £150million transfer scramble this summer, then England boss Gareth Southgate is his man.
At the age of 19, the midfielder has become as indispensable to his country as he is to Borussia Dortmund.
Bellingham has been playing with the pain of bursitis for the last month – and his left knee will be strapped when England face Ukraine at Wembley today. But Southgate has no worries about putting his faith in a player who has already featured in 45 games this season.
“We’re in collaboration with Jude’s club and there is no issue with him continuing to play as we see it,” said Southgate.
“Jude is in the bracket we love – high performance, low maintenance.
He wants to improve and is an open book in terms of suggesting things that can help his game
“He wants to improve. He’s an open book in terms of suggesting things that can help his game and you know, he is keen to pick that up.
“If you explain to him exactly what you want, in terms of receiving information and retaining information, he is really good.”
Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris St Germain all want to take Bellingham away from Dortmund.
He has spent the last three seasons continuing to learn his trade in the Bundesliga after leaving Birmingham in a £25m deal.
The teenager is one of Dortmund’s club captains – and has worn the skipper’s armband at times this season.
Southgate is yet to feel the sharpness of the edge he has developed in
Germany, where Bellingham is not afraid to get stuck into team-mates who underperform.
But he would not change a thing. Southgate said: “Jude wouldn’t hesitate to challenge.
“I haven’t seen that in quite the same way but I have seen it when he’s played for his club.
“We don’t want to curb that edge, that drive. That’s what makes him the type of player he is.
“If you look back at big-personality players over the years, part of that is what has made them the top players they are.
“That desire to win, hatred of losing – whichever it is.?
“That’s a big part of Jude’s make-up and it’s infectious on other people as well.”
Bellingham played in a more advanced midfield role for Southgate as England opened their qualifying campaign by beating Italy in Naples on Thursday night. He did not let his country down.
Southgate said: “We had Jude pressing a little bit higher, dealing with the pivot the other night.
“That was specific for the game. He is at his best as a No.8 that can go and get forward from those areas.
“He’s not quite as comfortable higher up the pitch to receive as a 10.
“But in terms of his impact, Jude continued the other night where he was for us in Qatar,” added Southgate.