What a start to life at Real Madrid Jude Bellingham is having.
When Bellingham made the move from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid in the summer for €103m, there were high expectations based on the transfer fee alone. Bellingham had proven himself to be an exciting player, but no one would have expected his start to go so well.
As well as adding a new dimension to Real Madrid’s midfield, Bellingham has replaced the goals lost in Karim Benzema’s leaving the club. Last season, Benzema scored 19 goals in 24 La Liga games, stretching that to 31 in 43 across all competitions.
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Entering the October international break, Bellingham has played a nice, round 10 matches for Real Madrid, already netting 10 goals — five more than any other player at the club — on top of three assists.
For some people, this output has launched Bellingham into conversations around the world’s best player, a debate that has heated up since Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo left European football.
“It was the throne of Vinicius, Mbappé, Haaland,” former Real Madrid midfielder Guti told Marca. “But Bellingham is the only one who has realized that the throne of Messi and Cristiano is free… and he is going for it.”
Whatever the truth, Bellingham will likely have to wait at least year to be formally recognised. The favourite Ballon d’Or is currently 2022 World Cup winner Lionel Messi, followed by Erling Haaland. They are 1/7 and 4/1 respectively with Sky Bet (18+ only, Be Gamble Aware). The distant third, on 20/1, is Bellingham.
If Madrid’s new MVP wins the 2023/24 Ballon d’Or and the presentation is before the 28th September 2024, however, he will officially become the youngest winner in the award’s history, breaking Ronaldo Nazario’s record.
In 1997, at 21 years and 92 days old, Ronaldo became the youngest player in football history to win the Ballon d’Or.
O Fenômeno still holds this record. pic.twitter.com/2V0B9B2OjW
— Squawka (@Squawka) September 22, 2023
Eight of Bellingham’s 10 goals have come in the league, including five in his first four matches, two of which were late winners. He also scored twice at the weekend against Osasuna in a 4-0 win, taking him top of the La Liga goalscoring rankings. In the Champions League, Bellingham netted another late winger against Union Berlin and found the net in the 3-2 victory over Napoli.
A fantastic start to life as a Real Madrid player on its own, but how does Bellingham’s start compare to modern Los Blancos greats?
- Year: 1994
- Goals: 5
- Assists: 1
Rising through the ranks at the club, Raul made his Real Madrid debut in October 1994, four months after his 17th birthday. Starting and playing the full 90 minutes against Real Zaragoza, Raul did not score in the 3-2 defeat, but he did get involved in his second match. It came against Atletico Madrid, with whom he had actually spent two years while in his early teenage years, and Raul showed them what they missed out on with a goal and assist. He had to wait a bit before getting involved again, with minimal minutes across his next three appearances, but Raul came back with two goals in two games against Real Oviedo and Real Valladolid. Two more blanks followed, before game 10, which saw Raul score twice in a 4-0 win over Celta Vigo. All 10 of Raul’s games came in the league, not in the squad for the UEFA Cup at that time.
- Year: 2009
- Goals: 3
- Assists: 2
When Karim Benzema first signed for Real Madrid, he wasn’t the marquee man of the attack that he eventually became. As everyone knows, he was playing in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo, second fiddle to the Portuguese superstar. Making his debut against Deportivo La Coruna on the opening weekend of the 2009/10 season, Benzema did record an assist for Raul in a 3-2 win. He scored his first goal in his third match, against Xerex in the league and followed that up with two goals against Tenerife and an assist vs Marseille in the Champions League. Benzema’s next four games did bring four blanks, however, across three competitions as Real Madrid started their Copa del Rey campaign early.
- Year: 2009
- Goals: 10
- Assists: 2
Cristiano Ronaldo was the marquee signing of the summer of 2009, for a record-breaking £80m, one of the last Galacticos of that era. Before becoming the fearsome striker he would be over the years, Ronaldo started his Real Madrid career on the wing, but still managed to run the show. He netted on his La Liga debut against Deportivo La Coruna and netted five goals in his first four games, one of the best goalscoring starts in the competition’s history. He was just the third player to net as many as four goals in his first three La Liga games for Real Madrid, after Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart, since joined by Bellingham. There were also two goals on his Champions League debut for Real Madrid against FC Zurich, and another two goals, plus an assist against Marseille. Unfortunately, Ronaldo’s start was hampered by injury and he didn’t reach 10 matches until December, scoring and assisting against Valencia in the league, as well as getting sent off.
- Year: 2001
- Goals: 4
- Assists: 2
Jude Bellingham is already receiving comparisons to Zinedine Zidane, not least because he is wearing the No.5 shirt, but when it comes to starts for Real Madrid there is no comparison. Zidane, one of the first Galaticos of the 21st century, actually made his debut in the Spanish Super Cup, recording an assist in the first leg against Real Zaragoza. The Frenchman’s La Liga debut didn’t come until his third Real Madrid game, pushed slightly wide. Zidane truly hit the ground when moved into a more central attacking position with a run of four goals in four La Liga games, despite Real Madrid struggling as a whole. In his 10th game, Zidane recorded his second assist for Real Madrid, in a 1-1 draw with Celta Vigo.
- Year: 2002
- Goals: 3
- Assists: 1
Ronaldo is one of the greatest players and goalscorers in football history, but his start to life as a Galactico wasn’t too good. The Brazilian scored just three goals in his first 10 games for Real Madrid, adding one assist. Two of those goals actually came on his debut, coming off the bench to net twice in 14 minutes in a 5-2 win over Alaves. A six-game goal drought followed and there was only one assist during that run, against AEK Athens in the Champions League. Ronaldo finally found the net again in a 3-2 win over Rayo Vallecano, but games nine and 10 passed without anything of note.
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- Year: 2012
- Goals: 1
- Assists: 0
It wouldn’t be fair to just compare Bellingham to attackers, so what about some of the midfielders that have gone before him? Luka Modric is now considered among the best midfielders of his era, but as we all know his time at Real Madrid did not go down well. Signed in the summer of 2012, Modric was labeled the worst La Liga signing of the season, ahead of Alex Song. In his first 10 games there was just one goal for Modric, scoring in a 4-0 win over Real Zaragoza.
- Year: 2009
- Goals: 3
- Assists: 4
Another player to whom Bellingham has been compared, Kaka was part of the Galactico class of 2009, signed alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema. The 2007 Ballon d’Or winner brought the creative juices to Real Madrid team in 2009/10, recording four assists in his opening 10 games across all competitions. After a blank on debut, Kaka recorded two assists in his second game, a 3-0 win over Espanyol. There was another assist in his next match, setting up Guti in the Champions League. Then came Kaka’s mini goalscoring run with three goals in three games against Villarreal, Marseille and Tenerife. Two blanks followed but Kaka had time for one more assist in his 10th game, against former club AC Milan.
- Year: 2014
- Goals: 0
- Assists: 3
Back to the more central midfielders, Toni Kroos has been a wonderful player for Real Madrid and can surely be considered a modern great, as part of the team that reconquered Europe. But Kroos’ role was a lot more reserved at the start of his Real Madrid career, playing deep in midfield, with three assists in his opening 10 matches. The German drew blanks in both legs of the Spanish Super Cup final against Atletico Madrid, but did record two assists on his first two La Liga appearances. Kroos’ third assist came in his ninth game, against Villarreal.
- Year: 2003
- Goals: 3
- Assists: 6
Another English superstar to join Real Madrid, David Beckham made the switch to Spain in 2003, and Bellingham has mimicked him with the start. Beckham hit the ground running and then some at Real Madrid, scoring three goals and recording six assists across his first 10 appearances. In fact, he was directly involved in a goal in each of his first seven appearances. It started with a goal and an assist across the two legs of the Spanish Super Cup final against Real Mallorca, which Real Madrid won. Beckham then scored on his LA Liga debut against Real Betis before recording an assist against Villarreal and two vs Real Valladolid. The Champions League debut brought another assist, this time against Marseille, before scoring against Malaga. Valencia were the first team to keep Beckham quiet at Real Madrid, but he bounced back with another assist against Espanyol. The 10th appearance brought a yellow card, with no goal involvements.