The summer transfer window ended less than a month ago, but it seems the biggest story of the 2023 window has already begun.
After selling Erling Haaland to Manchester City this year and Jadon Sancho to Manchester United the year before, Borussia Dortmund are once again bracing themselves for bids from Europe's elite for their latest prodigy: England midfielder Jude Bellingham.
Having excelled for Dortmund over the last two years, Bellingham has established himself as a key player in Gareth Southgate's England setup and is now one of the hottest properties in the global game, all at the tender age of 19.
But with the biggest and best clubs from across Europe keen to secure Bellingham's signature, the young midfielder now faces a decision that could shape the rest of his career.
Rumours abound that Dortmund will allow Bellingham to leave for £83m next summer, an absolute steal for a generational talent with his best years ahead of him. Bellingham must now choose wisely, as his next move will likely lock him into a big-money contract that will make it difficult to make another move if it doesn't work out. But could the perfect club be staring him in the face?
Scott Saunders, Graeme Bailey, Toby Cudworth and Sean Walsh bring you a brand new episode of Talking Transfers. The team discuss Jude Bellingham's future, Bayern Munich's interest in Harry Kane, widespread Premier League interest in Mykhaylo Mudryk and plenty more. Available on all audio platforms.
If you can't see the podcast embed, click here to download the episode in full!
Liverpool's midfield problems have been no secret this season. With the likes of Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara unavailable, Jurgen Klopp has been forced to rely on the ageing James Milner more than he'd like to in many of the club's early Premier League fixtures.
With Thiago and Jordan Henderson also advancing in age, Klopp has made no attempt to hide the fact that his side needs fresh legs in the centre of the park - and many suspect that the Reds are holding out for Bellingham in particular.
On the face of it, the move feels like a match made in heaven. Liverpool need a new star in midfield, and Bellingham needs to find a club that will allow him to compete for titles over the next decade. Case closed, right?
For starters, Spanish outlet Marca have reported that Bellingham is set to snub interest from Liverpool, Manchester City and a host of top English clubs in order to join Real Madrid. Like Liverpool, Los Merengues have an ageing midfield that needs a fresh face or two, although the signings of Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni have gone some way towards achieving this already.
But a move to the Spanish capital could make more sense for Bellingham on a developmental level too. Carlo Ancelotti favours a tactical approach which allows his players to solve problems themselves, offering more breathing space for players to win matches with moments of individual brilliance.
This approach is arguably what helped Madrid to win the Champions League last season, as the likes of Luka Modric and Karim Benzema defied logic to produce moments of magic that flipped games on their head repeatedly throughout the competition.
It could be argued that Bellingham, a player who enjoys dribbling through tight spaces and is capable of running matches single-handedly, would be a better fit in the environment Ancelotti has cultivated at Madrid than the highly-structured pressing game favoured by Klopp.
On the other hand, Klopp has a proven track record for improving players and has adapted his system in the past to make new signings work. The signing of Thiago in 2020 came under heavy scrutiny, with many questioning whether the Spaniard was a good fit for Liverpool's system. After a year, however, the midfielder had made himself indispensable to the side, who have missed him immeasurably this campaign.
Perhaps a bigger question for Bellingham when picking his next club is what the future looks like for these sides. Klopp has been at Liverpool since 2015, while Ancelotti is an elder statesman of the game who has already won it all. Could one or both of them be on their way out in the next couple of years, and if so how will it change the way they play?
It's hard to imagine any manager being able to emulate Klopp's success with the gegenpress at Anfield, while Ancelotti is anomaly as one of the few elite managers left who doesn't adhere to any specific tactical system. Both managers are near-impossible acts to follow, creating a lot of uncertainty over what their sides will look like in the future.
Ultimately, Bellingham's next club may well be decided by his own personal ambitions. As an Englishman, does he have ambitions of conquering the Premier League one day? Or does he see himself as more of a Galactico in waiting, ready to compete for a place in the team alongside the best of the best in world football? Whatever happens, the precocious midfielder is sure to be one of the most exciting players to follow over the next few years.