Madrid's 'greedy' Bellingham ready for dream Champions League final

Real Madrid are the overwhelming favourites in Saturday's Champions League final against Bellingham's former team Borussia Dortmund

By AFP

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Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham during a training session ahead of the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund. — Reuters
Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham during a training session ahead of the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund. — Reuters

Published: Thu 30 May 2024, 8:29 PM

Jude Bellingham's first year at Real Madrid started in unbelievable fashion amid a whirlwind of goals, but the ending could be more incredible still.

With the Spanish title in the bag Madrid are aiming for a fifth La Liga and Champions League double, against the England international's former team Borussia Dortmund in Saturday's Wembley final.


"It's such a big game, my first Champions League final, back home in England against my old team -- it's a crazy one, I couldn't have dreamed it any better," Bellingham told reporters this week.

The 20-year-old midfielder was voted La Liga's player of the season on Wednesday. Bellingham scored 19 league goals and four in Europe on the way to the final.


Arriving at Real Madrid last summer, he revealed his love of former midfield great Zinedine Zidane and even took the Frenchman's number five shirt in homage.

However Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti had other plans for Bellingham, a classy centre-midfielder at Dortmund, putting him straight into the space vacated by striker Karim Benzema's departure.

It paid instant dividends, with 13 goals in his first 13 games, getting him off to a flying start with Madrid's fans, quick to serenade him with Beatles song 'Hey Jude'.

Bellingham struck twice, including a 91st minute winner, in his first Clasico to snatch victory over then-champions Barcelona on Catalan soil.

Did he anticipate this kind of impact? "I came here expecting to win," admitted Bellingham.

"I came here because I wanted to win, and to expect it, it's a bit greedy almost, but you have to be confident when you're playing with so many great players."

With another late winner in the second league Clasico and three goals in two matches against shock title challengers Girona, Bellingham delivered in key moments.

His goalscoring slowed as Ancelotti tasked him with more defensive responsibility, chastened by a loss against Atletico Madrid -- their only defeat in La Liga. In the Champions League Madrid are unbeaten.

"What you've seen from me this year is a lot of different kinds of roles and positions," said Bellingham.

There were some concerns around his fitness towards the end of the season following an ankle injury, but he says he feels "very close" to 100 percent after resting once Madrid claimed the title.

Bellingham joined Dortmund from Birmingham City aged 17. He was the English side's youngest ever player and they retired his number 22 shirt in tribute to him.

Initially outshone by teammates Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, Bellingham still managed to establish himself as a regular starter in his first season in Germany.

Dortmund coach Edin Terzic praised Bellingham's maturity, saying he could "hardly believe that he's only 17".

Before his final season at Dortmund, Bellingham was included in the captaincy group alongside skipper Marco Reus and Mats Hummels.

He led them out against Cologne in October 2022, aged just 19, becoming the youngest captain in Bundesliga history.

"You have the feeling he's got three kids at home -- he's going places," marvelled Dortmund centre-back Niklas Suele, a Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Bellingham established himself as a world-class talent at the 2022 World Cup, driving England to the quarterfinals.

Bellingham and Dortmund took the 2022-23 title race to the wire but lost out to Bayern on the final day, with the midfielder named Bundesliga player of the season.

A fortnight later Bellingham joined Madrid for 103 million euros ($112 million).

"He plays very grown-up football, even though he's so young," said Dortmund's Karim Adeyemi this week.

"I'm very happy for Jude, he played a great season," added Emre Can. "But on the pitch we think just about winning for our club."

Record 14-time champions Madrid are firm favourites though, and if they win, what is next for Bellingham?

"Hopefully the European Championship," he said. "I just talked about being greedy... I'm focused on the final."

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