All eyes were on Erling Haaland in Manchester City’s slim Champions League first leg win over Borussia Dortmund, but Jude Bellingham has proven to be a player for the present, not just for the future at the Etihad.
Haaland, the hottest property in football, arrived at the Etihad for what had been touted in some quarters as a potential audition, despite Pep Guardiola’s insistence that a high-income striker was at the – beyond on his side this summer.
The towering Norwegian had his moments, shrugging Ruben Dias with contemptuous ease to only shoot straight at Ederson, but more decisively steer a ball cleverly into Marco Reus’ lane for a late leveler who turned out to be short duration.
His pace, bonding play and moves impressed, but a player even younger than his 20s really caught the eye in that compelling first leg, surely providing more food for thought for England boss Gareth Southgate, who only used it sparingly during the international break. .
Bellingham became the second youngest player to start a Champions League quarter-final – behind only Bojan in April 2008 for Barcelona against Schalke – but delivered a performance beyond his young age of 17 years and 281 days.
The Birmingham Academy graduate thrived on the big stage in his tenacious, compound-on-the-ball box-to-box role.
He had the first real chance of the night when he created space in the area, only for Ederson to push back his left-footed strike.
Along with some clever late runs in the box, his athleticism and physique were in the spotlight as he ran towards goal and slashed a ball in Ederson’s toe before hitting home. It was an equalizer that should have held up, just a reward for the brain and quick feet, but referee Ovidiu Hategan inexplicably deemed it a foul, waving a yellow card and scoring the goal.
“I really think I won the ball fairly,” Bellingham said later. BT Sport. “It’s a little frustrating at a time when there are so many TVs and cameras, but it’s football; you have to keep going. Apparently I got my crampons on and grabbed the goalkeeper. “
Phil Foden would restore the advantage Kevin De Bruyne gave City with a last-breath winner, but Dortmund will take what could be an invaluable away goal in Germany for the second leg on April 14 and Bellingham played a role key in the movement that Reus has completed. , dropping a shoulder before feeding Haaland with a movement from the outside of his boot.
“His full game is so good, he plays like a grown man,” said watching specialist Owen Hargreaves. “He’s already a star and he’ll be one of the best in a little while.”
Bellingham, wearing a bloody knee “after chasing De Bruyne”, has engaged in more duels than any other Dortmund team-mate and admitted he enjoys the challenge of facing one of the best in the world. world in Europe’s top club competition.
“I’m stunned now,” he said. “They are brilliant – one of the best teams in the world if not the best. The way they move the ball and get it back after losing it is world class.
“You give De Bruyne time in the box and time to put a cross and it’s going to hurt us, but we’ll move on.
“I think we frustrated them a lot when they got the ball. Sometimes they struggled to break the ball; we used the ball effectively and it was a brilliant game to put Marco on and a nice finish.
“It’s disappointing to concede so late, but we’ll use that away goal in the second leg and see what we can do. We have to create a little more next week and tell them about the game and I think we let’s do it. do this. “
Nev and Carra split over Bellingham’s chances at the euro
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville have chosen their teams for Euro 2020 Monday night football but – speaking ahead of the Champions League action – were divided over whether Bellingham should make the cut.
Neville omitted Bellingham but Carragher included him in his 23-man selection.
“Bellingham plays for Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, and I think he’s going to be a star of the future for England.
“He’s one of those on the team where you consider them less involved, but you put them in the squad for the future. Not to say he’s not good enough, he’s playing in the Champions League and will be involved against Manchester City. “
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How Man Utd missed Bellingham
Bellingham became the most expensive 17-year-old in history last summer, having chosen Borussia Dortmund over Manchester United.
Although clubs across Europe have revolved around the boy who made his England U15 debut at just 13 years old, as Sky Sports News’ James Cooper wrote at the time, “It came down to a decision between Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund.
“United rolled out the red carpet for Bellingham and his family, who were impressed with their visit to the Aon training complex in Carrington, which introduced an audience with Sir Alex Ferguson.
“United’s coaches and recruiting staff had been monitoring the midfielder’s development for almost two years and in doing so, established a close relationship with his family and their coaching counterparts at Birmingham City.
“Birmingham and Bellingham could have won more financially by staying in England and moving to Old Trafford but, while he would have been part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, the competition for places would have been fierce.
“Borussia Dortmund have a ‘track record’ of developing English talent. Jadon Sancho also joined the club at the age of 17 … Bellingham and his advisers have reportedly viewed Sancho as the role model for what could come. then and I am told their decision to qualify for the Bundesliga on the Premier League [was] at playing time. “