Jude Bellingham made his 50th Bundesliga appearance for Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 23, making the England international the second youngest player in German top-flight history to reach the milestone.
When Bellingham took to the field against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Sunday, he brought up his Bundesliga half century aged just 18 years, seven months, and 22 days old. That's a mere 10 days older than record-holder Florian Wirtz was when he got to the landmark and months clear of teammate Gio Reyna, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, who round out a stellar top five.
Unlike his rivals, Bellingham had already amassed 44 first-team appearances for hometown club Birmingham City before he swapped England for Germany two years ago, 41 of which came in England's second division. So, while the collections of Wirtz, Reyna, Havertz and Werner were the first 50 league games of their professional careers, Bellingham is closer to 100 at the same stage.
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It's proof of his prodigious talent that Bellingham has so much football under his belt and, having made his Bundesliga debut against Gladbach on 19 September 2020, the Foals were fitting opponents for the teenager to come full circle on what has been a remarkable journey thus far.
Bellingham has already achieved so much: four Bundesliga goals and nine assists, 16 UEFA Champions League appearances and two goals, four assists in the competition, plus two DFB Cup goals and a cup winners' medal.
Then there's the fact that he's now a fully fledged England international with 10 senior caps in his collection and a place in his country's history secured thanks to his efforts in their run to the UEFA Euro 2020 final. Bellingham became the youngest player in European Championship history at the age of 17 years and 345 days in England's opening game as the Three Lions reached only the second major international final in their history.
Former Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola joked that Bellingham must be "a liar" after he became the second-youngest scorer in Champions League knockout stage history and the youngest Englishman to score in the competition at 17 years, nine months, and 17 days when he found the net against Manchester City last season.
Dortmund teammate Erling Haaland shares the Man City coach’s awe of Bellingham's talent and achievements. "He’s 18 – three years younger than me – it’s crazy! What can I say? He’s amazing. He's 18-years-old and plays so incredibly well. He is fantastic," said the BVB striker after another Bellingham star turn against Beskitas in the Champions League earlier in 2021/22.
Dortmund defender Mats Hummels added in an interview with bundesliga.com: "Jude is the most mature 18-year-old player I've ever seen. He's already a leader and, also one of the most vocal in the team. He's a fantastic footballer, and a fantastic guy. I think I've told him about 25 times now that I just love him. He's on his way to the very top, there's no doubt about that."
Bellingham's technical talent on the pitch is obvious, but it is his maturity, professionalism and hard work that really gets people talking. And England boss Gareth Southgate says the influence of model pros such as Hummels will only reinforce Bellingham's strongest traits as both a footballer and a person.
"I couldn’t be more impressed with him as a human being," Southgate said previously. "His parents have done a fantastic job and should be very proud. He’s got humility, good manners, confidence and a lovely way about him.
"Jude has got [players to show him what it takes to be a top professional] with some of the experienced players at his club like Mats Hummels. He can see why he’s a World Cup winner, why he has had the longevity in the game that he has, and he’ll be looking at [England's] senior players and seeing why they’ve hit the level they have."
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His eight goals and 14 assists for Dortmund from 77 games in all competitions certainly catch the eye, but so does his unrelenting engine and fight in the centre of the park. And you can see the endeavour in Bellingham's football every time he steps foot on the field of play.
One look at the Bundesliga stats page proves as much. While only captain Marco Reus has more Dortmund assists in 2021/22 than Bellingham (six), he also tops the club's charts for most challenges won (278) and most sprints (609), while only Reus (1,789) has made more intensive runs than his teenaged teammate (1,700).
Reus (145.7 miles/ 234.6 kilometres) is again the sole Dortmund player with more miles in his legs than Bellingham (134.7 miles/ 216.9 kilometres) this term, so it's little wonder then that coach Marco Rose continues to heap praise on his young midfielder at every opportunity.
"Jude is just a great guy," said Rose after the 2-1 win at Besiktas where Bellingham scored one and laid on the other. "His mentality, the willingness to work for the team, the intensity with which he plays football, the will to win and of course the solutions he finds on the football pitch. The way he assisted Erling’s goal and scored the first himself is extraordinary. We are really happy to have him with us."
The Dortmund boss added after Bellingham's dreamy Goal of the Month winner against Bielefeld in October: "Jude's an outstanding lad... he gives us so much. He never stops running and just plays so well."
Bellingham has it all: undeniable talent, unrivalled work ethic and both a maturity and footballing intelligence way beyond his years. It's been some ride so far and there's plenty more to come.
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