The year of Bellingham? Jude stands on the brink of greatness and trophies in 2024

It was an unashamedly ambitious acceptance speech. When Jude Bellingham received the Golden Boy award, he declared: “I want to win everything”. Given the sense of boundless possibility that surrounds him, he just might. England will enter Euro 2024 after 58 years of hurt, a wait for a trophy that has lasted almost three times as long as Bellingham’s lifetime, but his progress has been swifter and his prowess greater even than expected. Triumph in Berlin in July, and it may be the Bellingham effect. Or perhaps that will instead bring Real Madrid the Champions League.

His Golden Boy award came with 485 votes out of a possible 500: 45 of the 50 judges ranked him Europe’s best player under 21, the other five the second best. He ranked 18th in the Ballon d’Or and it already feels a safe assumption that it will be his lowest position for many a year. As Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo shuffle off the stage, the two prime candidates to replace them as the outstanding players in the world had seemed to be Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.

But Bellingham’s stellar 2023 suggests they will have competition. He ends the year as the midfielder who is the top scorer in La Liga, only a goal away from having the same status in the Champions League. When Karim Benzema, himself the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner, surprised Real by choosing to leave for Saudi Arabia, there were questions about whether Mbappe would prove his successor. Instead, in a way, Bellingham has been: Carlo Ancelotti has configured a striker-less formation which has given Bellingham licence to get forward, but he has done so with an aptitude that few anticipated.

And, should his second half of the season be as productive as the first, Bellingham would find himself in rare company. In the last 15 years, the only players to win the Pichichi Trophy, the award for the top scorer in La Liga, are Messi, Ronaldo, Benzema, Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez: each a great, none a midfielder by trade.

Bellingham is almost averaging a goal a game with Real Madrid

“We’re all surprised by the amount of goals Jude has scored,” Ancelotti said. “He’s incredible, extraordinary.” And yet the most remarkable element is not the number of his goals as much as the quality and the timing. An injury-time winner in his first El Clasico – when he had already scored a high-class goal from 25 yards – was a case in point. In the Champions League, there was the mesmeric solo run away at Napoli, in the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Throw in a propensity to deliver late winners – against Getafe and Union Berlin as well as Barcelona – and Bellingham can feel the player for the big moment, as well as the big occasion.

England’s autumn felt proof. He refuses to be intimidated: not by playing for Real, not by the stage. Bellingham was the dominant player against Scotland at Hampden Park, again when Italy visited Wembley. The shift in Gareth Southgate’s tactics, to using him as a No 10, is a reflection he can be the match-winner, that his double act with Harry Kane could be decisive. England are building around Bellingham: which, as in past tournaments players like Steven Gerrard were given roles that did not really suit them, makes sense.

Go back to the first half of Bellingham’s 2023 and various elements stand out. He captained Borussia Dortmund in a Champions League knockout tie when still a teenager. But there was the knee injury that meant he was an unused substitute for their final-day draw with Mainz: given his transformative powers, it is tempting to wonder if a fit Bellingham would have ended Bayern Munich’s decade-long reign and wrenched the Bundesliga title from their grasp.

Bellingham should be a key cog for England in the Euros next summer

He nevertheless left Germany as the Bundesliga player of the season, potentially setting him up for a rare double if he can take the equivalent prize in Spain a year later. This year suggested that, rather than returning home, he may prove England’s greatest exile: Liverpool were long-term suitors, Jurgen Klopp open in his admiration for Bellingham, Jordan Henderson seemingly trying to sell Anfield to his England teammate, but they accepted the inevitable even before an £88m deal with Real was agreed. But his wanderlust means there is an exoticism to the Brummie boy; because his club football has been played in the Bundesliga and now La Liga, English audiences don’t tend to see him every week.

But it does mean Bellingham walks in the footsteps of the legends. The story is well known now that he wore the No 22 shirt because an all-rounder of a midfielder was in part a 4, and an 8 and a 10. For Real, he has been a false nine of sorts, while wearing the No 5 that used to belong to Zinedine Zidane. Ancelotti, who coached the Frenchman, reflected: “What I see is [Bellingham’s] ability to get into the box. Zidane didn’t have that. And the individual quality which Zidane had, Bellingham doesn’t have.” But for the Italian, who has spent four decades playing with and coaching the game’s greats but called Bellingham “a gift for football”. For Real Madrid and England, Bellingham may prove the gift that keeps on giving in 2024.


Jude Bellingham, a young English midfielder, received the Golden Boy award and stated his ambition to win everything. He has had a stellar 2023, emerging as a top talent in European football. His success with Real Madrid and the England national team has made him a standout player, and he is positioned to become one of the best in the world. Bellingham’s ability to score goals and make a significant impact in big matches has impressed fans and experts alike. He is seen as a key player for both Real Madrid and England in the future. Despite his success abroad, Bellingham is also seen as an “exotic” and legendary figure in English football. His talent and potential make him a player to watch in 2024 and beyond.