Jude Bellingham may only be 17 years old, but the English midfielder has already established himself as a key member of the Borussia Dortmund in his first season in the Bundesliga.
In a campaign with has seen Bellingham make waves in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League as well as an international debut for England, there's plenty to reflect on already as we enter the second half of 2020/21.
The product of Birmingham City's academy sits down with bundesliga.com to explain the confidence he has in himself at Dortmund, the fun of playing and training alongside Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho and why he can't wait to see a sold-out Signal Iduna Park for the first time in the future...
bundesliga.com: Do you enjoy training in this freezing weather?
Jude Bellingham: "I hate it. Sorry, I hate it. With the snow, it's just too cold."
bundesliga.com: You have a very experienced demeanour on the pitch. Where does that come from?
Bellingham: "Confidence, I think. A lot of people made a lot about my transfer - for whatever reason. They maybe doubted me a little bit to compete with the other midfielders. I feel like I offer something a bit different in there. It was up to me to go out and prove it. I got the chance in training, I got the chance in pre-season and then I've been given my chance in the league and the Champions League and the cup, and I've taken it so far. Just got to keep going."
bundesliga.com: Do you feel at home on a pitch?
Bellingham: "I think whenever a footballer is on a football pitch, that's where they're most comfortable. This is where we do what we do, we get paid to do what we do. There's nothing better for us."
bundesliga.com: You’ve been playing professionally for a long time already despite still being so young...
Bellingham: "I've been in a professional environment since I was 15, always with the first team. And if not with the first team, with the reserves. So, I've always been in that kind of environment. So, it sets you up perfectly, especially the Championship for men's football. There was never going to be anything that fazed me in terms of the professional side of the game because I'd done it before for two years. So, I felt very comfortable coming into the league. I was just so, so happy to get started."
bundesliga.com: What's the difference between football in the Bundesliga and what you experienced with Birmingham City?
Bellingham: "I think in the Bundesliga it's very different. You get away with a lot less, it feels like there's not as much contact in the Bundesliga, but technique-wise it's far better and it kind of helps me perfectly because I've had the side where it's very physical, and now I've come here and I get to test my technique against other players' technique. Hopefully, mine will shine."
Bellingham: "I was on the bench for the first one, but from the first second I got signed, I was told about the Revierderby and the hatred for Schalke. So, it's important that we go out there and we don't just represent ourselves and the staff, but we represent the entire fanbase. For them it's more than a football match, it's bragging rights. It's something that I completely understand. And if I'm given the chance to go out there, I'll let that be known in my performance."
bundesliga.com: Would Schalke's relegation be a reason to celebrate?
Bellingham: "Of course, Schalke are struggling. It's not something to laugh at at all or anything like that. I think we go into the game very focussed. And in a derby, form and all that kind of stuff, the league table, is really not relevant. It comes down to fight and the key moments in the game. The last time we played them it was very cagey until we got the first goal. And when we did, that's when we started to pull away. But not at all. When the game comes, we'll be very focussed on the opposition and not the place and position in the league table."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe Dortmund's current form?
Bellingham: "I think it's simple really. We've conceded too many goals - and that's about it really. In football, you've got to turn that down to be able to kind of give yourself the best chance of winning. I feel, in a game, we're always confident that we can score goals. I think we've proven that, but it's just keeping them out is proving to be quite difficult. But I think a lot's been made of our position in the league. Obviously, first and second place are quite far away, but third and fourth is like three points and six points. It's not a crisis, it's down to us to change it. We're the only people that can change it, so the pressure's on us really. No one else needs to worry except us, but we'll be fine."
bundesliga.com: The Klassiker against Bayern isn't far away. Is that still the biggest game of the season?
Bellingham: "I was probably more aware of the Klassiker than the Revierderby because I always just assumed that was the biggest one because it's the two biggest clubs in Germany. So, I was more aware of that. And there's been some classics in the years. And there was a classic earlier in this season. We're really looking forward to having that one back."
bundesliga.com: Did you follow the Klassiker back in England?
Bellingham: "Not really, I wouldn't watch all the games. I'd watch highlights and stuff. I was more worried about the Premier League and my own team Birmingham. But that was definitely something I watched with interest in terms of the highlights."
bundesliga.com: Do you feel the global attention around the game?
Bellingham: "Of course, I think it's a game that, no matter what country you're from, if you see it's on at the weekend, you know how important it is. In terms of league position, it may not be as important this year, we know that, but again it's a derby, it's a Klassiker, and it's for the fans, ultimately. So, we want to go out there and try to represent ourselves as best as possible."
bundesliga.com: What were your reasons for joining Dortmund?
Bellingham: "As I've said many times, I think the game time, what they offer young players in terms of opportunity on the pitch. Obviously, the one thing I've not got to see yet, which I can't wait to see, is the fans. Everything gets made out of how great the fans are, and I get two chances in front of them with a smaller crowd. It was brilliant, I enjoyed every second of it, and then I have to wait even longer for the 80,000, but that was definitely something that persuaded me as well."
bundesliga.com: What's it like being a part of this group of young, talented players?
Bellingham: "Brilliant. It's where you want to be, at Borussia Dortmund, in terms of building your craft and learning about the game. There are such brilliant professionals that are older, more experienced, 30+, that you can learn from - Marco [Reus], Mats [Hummels]. And then you have the ones who are only slightly younger in terms of Jadon [Sancho] and Erling [Haaland]. You pick up so much from them and it's really invaluable what you can learn."
bundesliga.com: What areas do you need to improve in personally?
Bellingham: "I couldn't really give you a specific thing in my game that I think's improving. I think everything is. Every time I train, I feel like a better player. Every time I play, I feel better. I think every single part of my game is improving as a result of just being out there and learning from the lads. So, I couldn't really pick out one."
Watch: Bellingham and Dortmund's teenage dreams
bundesliga.com: What do you think about Youssoufa Moukoko?
Bellingham: "I think he's a really good talent, really promising talent. I think if you meet the boy as well, an excellent boy - very humble, he's got his feet firmly on the ground, which is the most important thing for a young player. And I think he's got the world at his feet as long as he can stay focussed. He's scored two goals already but you can see he's still adapting to first-team football a bit. But as soon as I think he gets that click, he'll be unstoppable."
bundesliga.com: Did you have a footballing role model?
Bellingham: "For me, it was always Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. When I was younger, all I ever wanted was a Birmingham shirt. And then the more and more I watched Wayne Rooney, it was like all I wanted was a Wayne Rooney shirt and all I wanted was a Steven Gerrard shirt. These kinds of people, they kind of mould the way that you play because you admire them so much. So, yeah, those two are probably my two biggest heroes in football."
bundesliga.com: What were you like growing up?
Bellingham: "I was from a working-class family, went to school - pretty much an average kid other than I was alright at kicking footballs. So, that was about it really. I went to school, made friends like any normal kid, went to classes, did okay. But the one place where I stood out was on the football pitch. My family always put a lot of emphasis on how important education is because that's something I need to have in place before I can play football, so I focussed on that as much as I needed to. Then as soon as I got the chance, it was all football."
bundesliga.com: Did you only play football as a kid?
Bellingham: "To be fair, I got into the game quite late - about seven years old. I think kids these days get into it at about three or four, which I think is crazy because they should be playing with toys and stuff. But I got into the game at seven and didn't really enjoy it, but I had a bit of raw talent and I went to Birmingham and they nurtured it perfectly until I was 16. Now here, I'm really looking forward to seeing how my development's going to increase."
bundesliga.com: Does your mother help you a lot here in Dortmund?
Bellingham: "My mum is the best woman in the world, in my eyes. She does everything for me and I couldn't thank her enough for everything she does. It's hard for me to try and tell you how great she is without you meeting her, but she does everything for me. I couldn't be more grateful for her. I'm really happy that, in a difficult time where people aren't getting to see family, I've got my mum with me who's helping me out with everything."
bundesliga.com: Do you have any siblings?
Bellingham: "Yeah, I've got a little brother called Jobe who's in Birmingham at the minute. So, it's been tough to see him. I've not seen him since... I can't remember the last time I saw him. But I'll see him soon. I'm really missing them, so that's probably the toughest thing at the moment. But being on a football pitch kind of helps me not think about it."
bundesliga.com: Does your brother also play football?
Bellingham: "Yeah, he's at Birmingham, he's doing really well. Like a normal big brother, I'm just so proud of him really. I can't wait to see where his journey goes in football and as a growing young man."
bundesliga.com: Has Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc already asked about him?
Bellingham: "I'm not sure yet but if he doesn't then I will be."
bundesliga.com: Which player's abilities would you like to steal for yourself?
Bellingham: "Well, I’d love to score a goal every game, like [Robert] Lewandowski, but I think in my position it's a bit different. When I look at players in the league that I really like the way they play, I think of the likes of Joshua Kimmich. I think he's a brilliant player. I think he can do near enough everything with the ball. I think he can create from deep, he's brilliant defensively as well. I think he's probably the benchmark at the minute in the league and one day probably in world football. So, it'll be good competing with him a few more times, seeing how I can learn off him and develop."
bundesliga.com: Does Joshua Kimmich also have a special kind of mentality?
Bellingham: "Obviously, I've not played with him. I've only played against... I think he was injured actually when I came on against Bayern, so I've not even played against him. But as I said, everyone says this then it must be true. You see clips and stuff of how determined he looks all the time. These are the little things that separate good players from great players. And obviously, he's a great player."
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