Jude Bellingham and Jamal Musiala maintain friendly rivalry at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich


Good friends off the pitch, firm rivals on it: Bayern Munich and Germany's Jamal Musiala and Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid and England are sure to bring the fireworks when they meet for the first time in the UEFA Champions League.

Birmingham-born Bellingham and Stuttgart native Musiala formed a strong bond as they worked their respective ways up through the ranks of England's youth teams. Although both now play for different nations and European giants, the pair remain in close contact as their careers explode on the world stage.

At just 21 and 20 respectively, Musiala and Bellingham boast such phenomenal talent and startling maturity that they represent both the present and the future of a game they are destined to dominate.

At this point, Musiala's fascinating life journey has been oft told. Born in Baden-Württemberg to a German mother and Nigerian father, he left the country of his birth for England with his parents aged just seven. The attacking midfielder impressed at Southampton before joining Chelsea's youth ranks, and it was during his time at the latter club where he crossed paths with Bellingham at international level, meeting a new friend who was making waves at boyhood club Birmingham City.

Watch: Bellingham vs. Musiala: Their paths to the Klassiker

The duo quickly hit it off in England's U15 setup and they would go on to play together at U16 and U17 level too - appearing on the same team sheet a total of 13 times.

Speaking to GOAL, former England youth coach Kevin Betsy said of the two players, "Jamal and also Jude have really unique personalities; they are very competitive. Everything they do, they do with the goal of winning and improving, but also with great humility and respect for everything that surrounds them.

"They are also very unselfish and this attracts people to like them even more," Betsy added. "They are just great guys, boys that every mother and father would love to their sons to grow into."

Bellingham and Musiala have gone from England teammates to two of the world's finest young talents - Marcin Szymczyk/imago images / Newspix - Marcin Szymczyk/imago images / Newspix

Despite subsequently switching allegiances to Germany following a couple of caps with the England U21s, Musiala - who joined Bayern at 16 - was keen to point out that his heart remained in both countries, especially as he now follows Bellingham as a senior England international. "I still have that love for England, my boys are there, like Jude." Musiala told BBC's Match of the Day.

Bellingham would go on to debut in the Bundesliga in September 2020, just 33 days before Musiala, but that was one of the only statistics in which he bettered his Bayern rival in Germany. After graduating to senior football, the pair would meet six times in Der Klassiker in both the Bundesliga and Supercup, with Musiala coming away with five wins and a draw, plus a further victory and draw when England and Germany met in the UEFA Nations League in 2022. If that wasn’t enough, Musiala would go on to make Bellingham’s final appearance in Germany one of heartbreak when he scored the title-clinching goal on the final day of the 2022/23 season to leave Dortmund’s Meisterschale dreams shattered.

Watch: Musiala's title-clinching goal wins May 2023 Goal of the Month

Plenty has changed since then, with Bellingham securing a blockbuster move to Real Madrid shortly after for a reported €103million, and Los Blancos haven’t regretted a single penny of it. Bellingham also finally got one over on his friend when he collected the 2023 Kopa Trophy as the best footballer U21 in the world, but their respect shone through when runner-up Musiala interrupted the ceremony in Paris with a heartwarming message to "one of his best mates in football".

“I still wanted to send you congratulations on your achievements. Well deserved,” Musiala said. "We both can remember not long ago we were roommates at England. Now, you're playing for Real Madrid and I'm playing for Bayern - it's crazy when you think about it. I hope to see you soon, hope you have a fantastic evening and greetings from Munich."

Responding to the message, Bellingham said: "He's a great guy, and it's so classy of him to send him a message there and wish me well. He knows how much I love him and how much respect I've got for him."

Musiala will now get his wish of seeing Bellingham soon, with the duo drawn together over two legs in a monumental Champions League semi-final tie. It will be Bellingham’s chance to finally rack up a win over his pal, and Musiala is facing a very different man to the boy he first met in England. Never previously relied upon for goals in his career in Germany and England, Bellingham has become an attacking powerhouse at the Bernabeu following the departure of Karim Benzema, posting a team-best 21 goals and 10 assists, a single-season record for the midfielder.

Watch: Farewell, Jude Bellingham!

Bellingham has also already added a Spanish Super Cup to his DFB Cup success with Dortmund, and is just one win away from clinching La Liga. Musiala, meanwhile, is facing the first trophyless season of his short professional career. That could all change over 180-plus minutes at the Allianz Arena and Bernabeu, though, with Bayern’s no.42 set to return from a brief injury lay-off to be set with the sizeable task of once again denying his friend in a head-to-head clash of epic proportions.

Seasons and trophies will be on the line when the pair shake hands pre-match, but given what they’ve been through together so far - you can be sure that their friendship won’t be.