After losing out to Borussia Dortmund for striker Erling Haaland in January, Manchester United could be about to lose another starlet to Germany.
According to reports by ESPN, Birmingham City midfielder Jude Bellingham has decided to move to the Bundesliga over Old Trafford this summer. Borussia Dortmund will reportedly pay a fee of around £20 million for the 16 year old wonderkid.
Manchester United had been strongly linked with a move for Bellingham, with many seeing his transfer as United returning to their previous transfer strategy of snapping up the best of young, British talent. However, his decision to go to Germany instead will be a massive blow to Ole Gunnar Solskjær who reportedly had big plans for him.
While the move is a blow for The Red Devils, it’s not hard to see exactly why Bellingham has made the decision he’s made.
Bellingham will turn 17 years old on June 29th. For someone so young, he has already made 33 league appearances for Birmingham, including 70 minutes in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with West Brom. He literally has the entirety of his career in front of him. There is no rush whatsoever for the big move to come now.
Whilst a club with the size and reputation of Manchester United will undoubtedly be the goal for Bellingham’s career trajectory, it doesn’t have to happen right now. The Old Trafford side currently have central midfield options including Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay and are being linked with Donny Van de Beek and Jack Grealish. Regardless of your thoughts on those midfielders, Bellingham would almost certainly be behind them all in the pecking order. He’s also far too good for U23 level football already.
At Dortmund, he would have seen countless young players make their breakthroughs over the years. Players such as Mario Götze, Jadon Sancho, Erling Haaland, Christian Pulisic, Ousmane Dembele have made their breakthrough to European elite at Dortmund and they continue to give young players a chance, with 17 year-old Giovani Reyna making his first Bundesliga start this past weekend.
They play an attractive brand of attacking football, score lots of goals, trust youth players and are in the Champions League most seasons – something Manchester United can no longer guarantee. While Bayern Munich have won the last eight consecutive Bundesliga titles, it is Dortmund that always run them closest.
Another thing to consider is that Dortmund are always happy to sell a player if the price is right. While they’ve helped to develop an abundance of talent in their club, they’ve always been willing sellers if the player wants to move on. Robert Lewandowski went to Bayern Munich on a free transfer with Dortmund’s best wishes, Ousmane Dembele was allowed to leave for £135.5 million to Barcelona as a Neymar replacement, Erling Haaland was signed with the agreement in place that a release clause will become active in his contract after his first 18 months are done.
While some may see it as a stepping-stone mentality, Dortmund use it as a way to strengthen their squad repeatedly via generating money but also discovering top talent.
On top of all of that, Bellingham will have far less pressure on his head. A decent sized fee will surely mean he has eyes on him, but at 17 years old most of Germany will know he isn’t the finished article. Signing for a club like Manchester United at that age, if he doesn’t hit the ground running he’ll instantly be seen as a flop.
For Bellingham he goes to a club where he’ll play more, with less pressure, in a team that attacks constantly and scores a bucket load of goals. He’ll play next to top players, in a top league, with Champions League football near enough guaranteed every season. He’ll also likely still be a target for Manchester United in years to come if he continues to develop at his current rate and as we’ve already established, Dortmund will have no issue selling up if their price is met.
The world is quite literally at the feet of Jude Bellingham now and he should find comfort in the fact that on the face of it, he’s made the right decision for his career.