Birmingham's Jude Bellingham: EFL Future Star
Andrews: "I would suggest it can't be a financial decision at this stage of his career, it has to purely be a footballing decision. Game time is an absolute must."
Last Updated: 19/05/20 10:44am
Jude Bellingham is set to be a future star in English football after impressing for Birmingham.
Here, Sky Sports' EFL pundit Keith Andrews and his former boss Gary Rowett assess the 16-year-old's attributes and tell us why he is such a special talent...
Why are top European clubs chasing him?
Andrews: Normally, top players get dipped into first-team action if they show a bit of promise, not very usually at this age, it's normally at the age of 18, 19, 20, so I think that's the first thing that strikes you. He's a physical specimen, well and truly able to deal with the physical intensity of the Championship. It hasn't been an issue for him. It's only a matter of time, of course, until he makes that step up into the Premier League or certainly a top league around Europe.
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Rowett: When he was about 12, I used to bring him down to my office now and again before a match just to have a chat to show how much the club appreciated him and how much the club valued him. The word at that time was that every single top European club had tried to buy him and had been watching him. I think the words were that he was probably the most sought-after 12-year-old in Europe at one stage. I'm sure there was a little bit of propaganda with that, but ultimately that's how well sought-after he's been from four or five years ago.
We've all played with young players, we've all coached or managed young players that there is so much talk about at an early age and sometimes they don't quite have all the ingredients to come through and play in a first team. But certainly with Jude, he's followed that pathway that the people there anticipated and there's certainly no surprise of the top clubs wanting him now. He's got so much humility and he's such a level-headed young boy who comes from a very level-headed family and I think that's been part of the reason he's come through.
Where has he been playing for Birmingham this season?
Rowett: What Birmingham have been quite clever doing is, rather than give him too much responsibility, rather than play him almost as that quarter-back position where he has to dictate the game - which would ask a lot of a 16-year-old - they've played him around the edges of games. They've played him around the periphery where perhaps he can make a mistake or two and it won't cost the team's structure too much or he can have a little bit more licence defensively so he hasn't got to do everything a seasoned pro might have to do all the time.
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If you are developing a young player, you have to accept some of the things they are not going to have until they've built up 100, 150 games for you. He's the type of player you could play anywhere and I think he would understand the role. It's like the top players; intrinsically, they just see something in the game a little bit quicker than some of the other players and that's why I think all the top four teams are looking at him because there's not much at the moment that he can't do. Maybe he's not doing it to the level of some of the top players but you can see the massive potential.
I think he's one that needs to use his exuberance, he needs to be able to have an outlet for that energy. What you've seen in some of the games this season for Birmingham when he's arrived in the box late, for a 16-year-old boy, he's shown a real maturity in terms of those timings of those runs and where and when to arrive in the box. I think that's, ultimately, going to be his position but I think he's still a young player so we might be talking about three, four years until he really nails down that No 8 position in the Premier League.
What does the future hold for the 16-year-old?
Andrews: The one thing I would suggest is that it can't be a financial decision at this stage of his career, it has to purely be a footballing decision. Game time is an absolute must. He has to back himself but he also has to be able to think: "Where can I, realistically, go to? How high can I play next season?" to continue that upward trajectory he is on.
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Rowett: You need to have the best coaching, ideally, and play with better players to develop further, but if you don't have game time, it's very hard to put all of those things into practice. I always say to players that until you've had 100 games, you almost can't be judged. You'll find your level but you need that block of games to learn on the job and I think that's going to be the real danger for him.
If he moves to a top club now, is he going to go and play for Man Utd right now? I'd suggest he wouldn't go and play in their team straight away. So what does he do in the interim? Does he stay at Birmingham? My guess would be that he'll follow a lot of young British players and end up in Germany because a lot of young players perhaps feel that not only will they get all the things I've spoken about, but they will put you in the team at 17/18 and work with you because some of their models work that way.
At this moment in time, it would be pointless to come straight back to the Championship. If he's going to do that, he might as well stay another year in the Championship and then make a move with a little bit more information because he's played more games.