Loads of players have been dubbed the ‘new Steven Gerrard’ over the years and all have failed to live up to their early billing. However, if 16-year-old Jude Bellingham’s attention-grabbing displays from the Championship are anything to go by, that might be about to change.
The Birmingham City midfielder has bulldozed his way into Pep Clotet’s starting XI, starring in many positions for the Blues. His form has not gone unnoticed either with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool all keen on the teenager.
The Championship outfit are believed to want £30million for the gangly-looking 6ft powerhouse. On one hand, he could prove to be a bargain if he lives up to his early potential. However, the added pressure of such a price tag could stall his progress, particularly if he is forced to bide his time.
For most Premier League clubs, spending this amount on a player is the norm and is rarely considered a risk. But, as a result of his era, Bellingham is a gamble. And a big one at that.
With large risks come big benefits and this will undoubtedly be in the back of the minds of those interested in the Birmingham City No.22.
He exudes confidence and there is a maturity to his match rarely seen in a player of the age. It was former Blues midfielder Jermaine Pennant who compared him to Gerrard.
“He’s a wonderful player. “He throws himself about, he can get up and down the pitch, he can score goals and assist goals, he’s got trickery. He’s a wonderful young player. ”
This wasn’t a throwaway remark, either.
When you watch Bellingham, you can see the similarities with a young Gerrard. Arrogance has negative connotations but when the Liverpool legend burst onto the scene at Anfield, he had plenty. Despite his age, he knew he was better than those he had been coming up against. Even when he faced Roy Keane or a Patrick Vieira, he wouldn’t shy away from the battle.
That’s exactly what Bellingham has been doing all season and why he’s now so highly rated. While he is not posting the numbers Dele Alli oversees while turning out for MK Dons as a teenager, he struck seven in 37 during his first season and followed with 16 in 44 ahead of his Premier League change, Bellingham has four goals and two assists in 30 appearances.
The fact he is still making headlines without scoring for pleasure is a positive. Utilizing Alli as an example again, once the goals dried up for him his performances were placed under the microscope.
He had been creating but the fact he was not scoring as often meant he was performing badly in the eyes of many. It was as straightforward as that. The England international was judged harshly because goals cloud judgement and change opinions. They flip 5/10 performances into 9/10s.
While Bellingham will no doubt wish to add more goals to his game, what he does aside from putting the ball into the back of the net are, arguably, of even greater value to his documented suitors.
His return of 0.28 goals and assists each 90 is decent for a 16-year-old playing in a mid-table side. But what is going to interest teams most is his ball-carrying ability. Bellingham completes 60 percent of the 2.55 of dribbles he attempts per 90. Concerning volume, he isn’t in Eden Hazard’s league but completion wise they are not too dissimilar with the Real Madrid man beating his rival 65 percent of the time.
He doesn’t shy away from the side of the game defensive game either. Normally, Bellingham makes six ball recoveries per 90. He’s winning over half the tackles he attempts and regains possession in the middle third on 3.5 occasions. As evidenced in the heat map above, Bellingham gets about the pitch. The adolescent is energetic and dynamic, qualities that aid him defensively and offensively.
He’s far from the finished product but, at his age, he does not need to be. Under the right manager, and in the ideal environment, Bellingham could be developed into whatever he wants. He’s the skillset to dominate the middle third and the traits required to play in broad areas. But it’s his work rate that will take him far.
Bellingham, for £30million, could be a gamble but he could turn out to be a truly generational homegrown talent. The Birmingham man could attain those levels, and for a fraction of the purchase price.