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Football Features

Jude Bellingham: England’s Zinedine Zidane regen frontrunner for Euro 2024 Young Player of the Tournament award

By Will Evans

Published: 15:25, 17 June 2024

Jude Bellingham is enjoying a remarkable rise at Real Madrid.

The 20-year-old has been transformed into a goal machine under Carlo Ancelotti’s tutelage — scoring 23 times across all competitions, as Los Blancos secured La Liga and Champions League glory.

Now he’ll be looking to round off a sensational season by helping England to a first European Championship triumph in Germany at Euro 2024.

Star qualities

Plays like: Zinedine Zidane

Bellingham issued a statement of intent when he chose to wear the No.5 shirt upon signing for Real Madrid last summer.

That was famously the number worn by club legend Zinedine Zidane — and there are plenty of similarities between the two attacking midfielders.

Real boss Ancelotti acknowledged as much after the Stourbridge native scored a brace in February’s 4-0 home win against Girona.

“There are things about the way he [Bellingham] plays that remind me of Zidane, it’s his extraordinary quality on the ball,” he said.

“Zidane may have been even better technically but Bellingham combines it with how he gets into the box.”

Few would have expected Bellingham to be drawing comparisons with one of the all-time greats so early in his Real Madrid career, but his development last season was meteoric.

Having typically operated in a two-man midfield at former club Borussia Dortmund, the decision to play him in a more advanced role was an inspired one.

He racked up 25 La Liga goal contributions (19 goals and six assists) and was just as influential in the Champions League, registering four goals and five assists in only 11 matches.

The youngster has exceeded all expectations since his £88.5million move to the Bernabeu and is even in the running to win the 2024 Ballon d’Or.

If he continues on his current trajectory, it may not be too long before Bellingham and Zidane are frequently spoken about in the same breath.

International pedigree

Bellingham has already amassed 30 England caps, having made his debut for the Three Lions as a 17-year-old back in November 2020.

He was called up to the Euro 2020 squad by Gareth Southgate and featured in the opening match against Croatia, making him the youngest-ever player to appear for England at a European Championship or World Cup (17 years and 349 days).

The former Birmingham City starlet only made three substitute appearances at that tournament, but he was a mainstay in the side by the 2022 World Cup.

It was in Qatar that Bellingham opened his account for England — heading home Luke Shaw’s left-sided cross to break the deadlock in the 6-2 group stage victory over Iran.

That was England’s first goal of the World Cup, and he was once again first on the scoresheet at Euro 2024. Bellingham scored England’s only goal in their 1-0 win over Serbia, taking his tally for the Three Lions to four.

Bellingham is just the second player in history to score at both the World Cup and European Championship before 21 after Michael Owen at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

He is also the fifth player to score England’s opening goal at two different major tournaments, joining Bobby Charlton, Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and Bryan Robson.

Club season snapshot

Only Villarreal’s Alexander Sorloth (23) and Girona’s Artem Dovbyk (24) scored more La Liga goals than Bellingham (19) last term, with the Englishman proving to be particularly clinical in the final third.

He far exceeded his xG of 11.2 and ranked seventh in the division for shots on target with 35 across the campaign.

But his creative attributes were similarly impressive — conjuring a commendable 48 chances, while attempting a high volume of through-balls (18) and completing 481 passes into the final third.

Bellingham’s driving runs forward are also a significant element of his game, as reflected in his 50 completed take-ons.

And he was remarkably effective at regaining possession, too, with only Sevilla’s Lucas Ocampos (33) winning the ball more times in the attacking third than his 29.

Elsewhere, it would be remiss not to reflect on Bellingham’s Champions League contributions, with no player in the competition bettering his five assists in the competition.

One of those came in the biggest of matches, when his pass for Vinicius Junior led to the Brazilian wrapping up Real’s 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the final.

That was not the first time that the Los Blancos star performed in clutch moments last term, though.

Perhaps Bellingham’s most memorable match was a 2-1 comeback triumph in El Clasico against Barcelona, when he scored both goals — including a 92nd-minute winner.

We could be set to see more of that brilliance from one of the continent’s most prodigious talents at Euro 2024.