Jude Bellingham’s match on Tuesday night at Hampden Park for England was a revelation in his country. Former Chelsea and Liverpool footballer Joe Cole, an analyst on Channel 4, seemed dazzled: “It’s poetry,” he summed up the experience of seeing Bellingham play for the first time with England as a number 10, the position that Carlo Ancelotti invented for him at Real Madrid. . He put on a display maneuvering behind Harry Kane in the 4-2-3-1 that Gareth Southgate debuted to defeat Scotland (1-3). A goal and an assist in areas very similar to those he now frequents in Madrid, although surrounded in a slightly different way in England.
Even more striking was the surrender to the talent of the Real Madrid player of Scot Graeme Souness, one of Liverpool’s legends, with whom he won three European Cups. It was the first time he saw him live: “When I played, I was a great midfielder. Today he would be a lesser midfielder compared to him. He has it all. Absolutely everything. And when you think how young he is, that he is 20 years old…”, a guy who was not generous in football praise allowed himself.
Seeing Bellingham at 10 for England was like seeing a new footballer. Ancelotti, the intellectual author of the phenomenon, elegantly removed something of importance yesterday in his appearance prior to tonight’s match against Real Sociedad at the Bernabéu (9:00 p.m., Movistar): “He was not well known because he played in the German league. He did not have the role that he has now, in an important league, in an important club.”
Although it was by reviewing his matches there that the Italian found something that has been transformative: “What we noticed in the games he played with Dortmund is that he had the ability to arrive at the rival area on time and be dangerous,” he recalled to explain the first intuition that led to advancing his position. The move has reported five goals and one assist in four games with Madrid, and one goal and one assist in one game with England. The graph shows how the areas in which Bellingham receives the ball have varied.
Beyond the extraordinary success of the first weeks, his new position has allowed a leap in what he contributes in the hottest areas. In the first days of the League with Madrid, he touches the ball more inside the area than at Borussia Dortmund: according to StatsBomb records, he has gone from 4.3 per game to 6.2. He has also made a jump in filtered passes, from 0.2 per game to 0.7.
In general, apart from scoring more, he is closer to the goal, his own and his teammates’. He makes twice as many key passes as last year (from 1 to 2 per collision). And although he registers more or less the same number of shots per game (from 2.1 to 2.3), the shots he takes occur in much more dangerous areas of the field, precisely because of his position: at Dortmund the average quality of Their chances were 0.09 expected goals (xG), while this season it is 0.18 xG. In Madrid, only Joselu, the only pure nine, has had better chances, with an average of 0.20 xG.
At the end of the match against Scotland on Tuesday, he was asked what his best position with England was: “I think it was pretty close today,” he said. “I think I fit in better than the weekend [contra Ucrania jugó por la izquierda]. It’s not a dig at the boss,” she joked.
The boss was Southgate, a point suspicious of the general dazzle caused by Bellingham in Hampden Park. The first thing he explained about the Madrid player’s location was counterintuitive: “We thought that in that position he could give them a lot of problems. “We needed physicality there to put pressure on Scotland.” Only after that statement did he mention his influence in attack: “The timing of their breakout careers.”
Bellingham was also left with the taste of a great night: “I really enjoyed playing in that position,” he said about a role in which he highlighted the “freedom” it allowed him, something to which he explained that Ancelotti had opened the door for him. Southgate tried to put on the brakes: “It’s not total freedom. And to be fair, he did a great job without the ball.”
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