Jude Bellingham was the star of the show as England cruised to a 3-0 friendly win over 10-man Ivory Coast.
The 18-year-old was voted man of the man as the Three Lions romped to victory at Wembley, with former England international Paul Ince saying: “he’s got all the attributes you look at to be a world-class player.”
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Gareth Southgate, however, was much more hesitant to lavish praise on his young midfielder. “There’s a long way to go,” said the England boss, making sure to point out that the hype machine for young England players; “when we’re developing young players we’ve got to do it very carefully. We build players up in our country so quickly.”
Southgate went on; “I’m not saying he’s not an absolutely exciting talent, because he is, and he’s a great kid to work with. But we shouldn’t put a load of hype around him, because the rewards in our country are different to any other country, the spotlight is different.”
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There was also a reminder that many others develop great youngsters; “All the other countries have got really good players as well, you know? Portugal develop hundreds of talented boys, Spain do, Italy do.
“So, I’m being ultra cautious, because I think he’s the sort that it won’t diminish his desire,” said Southgate, concluding with the firm: “But I also don’t think we need to create this sort of thing around all of our young players.”
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Bellingham was so outrageously good against Ivory Coast you can’t help but understand why most people get carried away when discussing his brilliance. Playing in a more advanced midfield position against the Ivorians he was an absolute menace.
Bellingham wore no. 10 and put in a performance worthy of that shirt number, weaving in an out of opponents, driving forward, linking with the front men. Southgate called him a “foraging 8” in his post-match press conference and the teenager was voted man of the match for his efforts, and definitely stated his case to start for England at the World Cup.
Great description of Jude Bellingham by Gareth Southgate there, a "foraging 8".
— Jack Pitt-Brooke (@JackPittBrooke) March 29, 2022
Southgate’s word of caution were echoed by Paul Ince, who despite heaping praise on him was also quick to point out how high the bar is; “when you can play at the highest level for 10-15 years, then you become a world-class player. Not based over one or two years.”
Ince concluded with a word of warning for Bellingham over the way the press are fawning over him right now: “I’ve seen it with Gazza; I’ve seen how the press treated Gazza, I’ve seen how the press treated David Beckham.”