Jude Bellingham is a ready-made England captain destined for trophies

Kyle Picknell
Bellingham has been outstanding
Bellingham has been outstanding / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages
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You might have noticed Jude Bellingham's performance during England's 3-0 win against Senegal on Sunday. You may also have noticed that just about any semi-meaningless leadership buzzword can be thrown in his general direction. More remarkably, that it sticks. They all stick.

Maturity. Presence. Drive. Composure. At 19, he's already shown it all. The LinkedIn CEO frauds would be falling over themselves to interview him.

Bellingham isn't the only young player to set the World Cup alight. Jamal Musiala, Gavi and Josko Gvardiol have also shone. But what sets him apart, as much technical quality as he possesses, is the imperious mental side of his game. Again: he does not turn 20 until June.

And just to make you feel even older than you already do, Bellingham was less than six months old when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was released in cinemas.

This season, Bellingham became the youngest ever Borussia Dortmund and Bundesliga captain as well as the youngest English captain in the Champions League and the youngest captain to score in the Champions League.

He's also the third youngest captain in the competition's history, behind only Ruben Neves and Matthijs de Ligt. Bellingham scored four goals in four consecutive matches in the group stages, too. He was the first teenager to ever find himself on the scoresheet three times in a row. Then he did it again, just for fun. The records continue to fall like dominoes.

Simply put, Bellingham is not supposed to be this consistent and this decisive this early into his career. That form on the biggest stage has carried over for England. Can you remember Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard having this kind of impact at a World Cup? At a major tournament? At any point during their international careers?

It'll be Bellingham's fifth World Cup game on Saturday. A quarter-final against France. On current form, he is probably the second most impactful player in the two squads, behind only Kylian Mbappe.

Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson
Bellingham just keeps getting better / Dan Mullan/GettyImages

It's hard not to get carried away, as it was when Wayne Rooney rumbled onto the scene in 2004 and walloped his way through Switzerland and Croatia like a malevolent, sentient and anthropomorphic wrecking ball with a grudge against luxury watches and beautiful stretches of coastline.

Unlike Rooney, who even at his peak was far from a model professional, Bellingham appears to have a wise old head on his young, broad shoulders. It's clear to see that he has the respect of his peers and that translates to a real authority in his performances on the pitch, which is ridiculous when you remember his birth year but less so when you consider his accomplishments in the game already.

He even impressed Roy Keane, for Christ's sake. Something a central midfielder has failed to do since Roy Keane himself did it before Jude Bellingham was born.

It has been so long since England have had a player like this, able to grab a game by the collar, lift it up against the wall and give it a stern but fair talking-to about its life choices. One to shake the snow globe when the scene falls flat.

Against Senegal, England were under pressure until Bellingham saw a flicker of space beyond the green shirts and hurled himself forward as if via trebuchet to lay on a tap-in for Jordan Henderson.

Moments later he burst into life again, reading the play before anyone else had even looked at the book cover to steal the ball from the Senegalese, power through their midfield and release Phil Foden and Harry Kane on the break to make it 2-0 before half-time.

In those two moments, he was everything: the midfield destroyer, the ball carrier, the progressive passer, the eye-of-a-needle threader. Effectively, in those two moments, he won the game on his own.


Harry Symeou hosts Andy Headspeath, Toby Cudworth & La Liga TV presenter Semra Hunter to look back on the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa - join us!

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Anything could happen in Bellingham's career. There is no current ceiling to what he might achieve in football. The implication so far is that it will contain trophies. And lots of them. Truckloads of trophies and awards and accolades. The keys to the city of Birmingham. A 20-foot-tall bronze monument in Stourbridge town centre.

Bellingham also has summers and summers full of transfer speculation ahead of him as Europe's biggest clubs circle and figures exceeding £100 million are discussed. Fabrizio Romano will be tweeting about him every hour on the hour.

Whatever happens on Saturday, Bellingham is not the future. He's the now, the present, the World Cup star and Champions League captain.

Kane is 29 and still has years and tournaments ahead in an England shirt. As captain, he has been close to impeccable, one of the best this country has ever had. But there will come a time when his powers start to wane and the legs start to fade. At which point, we will already know who the armband is being passed on to.

That process has already begun.

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