Jude Bellingham’s World Cup performance against Wales left BBC Sport’s pundits basking in awe, as the former Birmingham City youngster helped England to a comfortable 3-0 win on Tuesday night. The Three Lions topped Group B with the victory that sets them up to face Senegal in the round of 16 on Sunday night.
There had been plenty of speculation before the game to suggest Bellingham would be dropped to the bench, but he threw that to one side and dominated the midfield. From collecting the ball in a defensive position on numerous occasions to driving forward with flair, the boyhood Bluenose made the centre of the park his own.
Marcus Rashford was the one to make the headlines - and rightfully so given he netted two fabulous goals - but BBC Sport trio Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand were sure to give Bellingham the praise he deserves. “He’s breathtaking for me, Jude Bellingham. Cor, blimey. What an extraordinary player,” Lineker said.
Ferdinand replied jokingly: “I’ve never heard you make such noises in the studio,” to which Lineker said with a smile: “It excites me. I make no apologies for that.” No wonder Lineker was making Gary Neville-esque squirms, as Bellingham maintained a 90% pass success rate, made three defensive contributions and created two chances.
“He was fabulous,” Ferdinand said. “Just the cameos he put together, the skillset he has, his presence on the pitch at this young age of 19 years old. At times he plays with an experience that goes beyond his years. He’s somebody that even right now other players are looking at to do things and to produce moments in the game.
“He’s somebody who can play at different levels on the pitch as well. He’s as comfortable receiving the ball off the back four as he is maneuvering through the midfield in a number 10 spot. I don’t quite know what he’s going to be yet. Is he going to be a Steven Gerrard type, a Lampard type or is he going to be a defensive midfielder?”
The question as to which role Bellingham fits best into is a common one, but his aim is actually to be successful in all of them. The answer is in fact right in front of everyone’s eyes, as his squad number 22 was chosen to represent he can perform as a 4, 8, and 10 all in one.
Lineker seemingly agrees as he said: “I think sometimes we fall into that trap of trying to put players into boxes that other players were.” Shearer, sat opposite, followed up as he said: “Bellingham’s got some engine on him. His energy is incredible from the first minute to the last minute. He’s the one still trying to get up there, still trying to drive England forward.”
Even despite the disappointment on the other end of the 3-0 win, former Wales international Ashley Williams chipped in with some generous praise. “He’s come to the World Cup and said ‘I’m going to dictate this. I’m going to make things happen, I don’t really care who else is in midfield with me or who we’re against’. He just makes things happen,” Williams added.