Jude Bellingham’s record-breaking performance against Senegal has led his England team-mate Phil Foden to make a bold prediction about the teenager’s future.
“I don’t want to fatten him too much because he’s still young, but he’s one of the most gifted players I’ve ever seen,” Foden told ITV.
“He has no weaknesses in his game. I think he will be the best midfielder in the world.”
High praise indeed and an echo from all corners after England staged a World Cup quarter-final against France with an impressive 3-0 win over the African champions on Sunday night at Al Bayt Stadium.
There, 19-year-old Bellingham demonstrated precisely why he has become one of the most sought-after talents in European football.
The stats certainly backed up the noise around his outstanding contribution as the Three Lions reached the last eight in back-to-back World Cup tournaments for the first time since 2006.
After all, he became the first teenager to feature in a World Cup knockout game since 1966 while preparing for Jordan Henderson’s debut game.
At least 1966, because that’s as far back as Opta’s data goes – and yes, that’s for any nation.
Henderson also couldn’t talk enough about Bellingham. “I can’t keep saying nice things about him because we’re talking about a unique case,” he told BBC Sport.
“He’s only young and we just have to let him play football, but he’s amazing.”
Aged 19 years and 158 days, he is also the youngest player to attend a World Cup match for England – also since at least 1966.
Bellingham led the way on a host of metrics in an impressive midfield display in the first half, including most duels won (eight), tackles won (three), possession won in the final third (two) and fouls won for his team (two).
The Borussia Dortmund confident midfielder also had 100% passing accuracy in the final third (six/six passes) and 96% overall passing success (23/24 passes) – the best numbers on the pitch respectively.
That includes the assist for England’s first goal and the pass to Foden leading Manchester City striker off Harry Kane to make it 2-0.
Speaking at half-time, former England defender Micah Richards told BBC Radio 5 Live: “He’s 19. To do such a performance is just amazing.
“When the game was flat and Senegal were causing real problems for England, just when they needed someone to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, Bellingham was there whether it was defend, attack or pass.
“I like his aggression against a strong and fast Senegalese team. What a performance it was.
“His decision-making too. He already has that part of his game at such a young age. It’s breathtaking.”
Former Three Lions player Matt Upson added: “Jude Bellingham, I don’t know what he eats for breakfast, but he’s everywhere. He’s bouncing all over the pitch.”
Meanwhile, former Manchester United captain Roy Keane added on ITV: “That’s exactly what you need from a midfielder when the game is a bit tight – starting from midfield. Bright.”
When a meeting with France on Saturday was all but assured, Bellingham was substituted 15 minutes from time, having completed the most dribbles (four) and won the most duels (nine) and tackles (four) among a multitude of leading actions. .
The former Birmingham City man played a vital role in helping England to a third consecutive clean sheet – their best World Cup run since 1982 – while their 12 goals in four games in Qatar are their most in one major tournament. , tied with the 2018 World Cup.
Captain Harry Kane said: “Jude is a fantastic player, he does everything well. I like him a lot, he’s a good person, mature for his age and with great leadership skills.”
Equally impressed, Gareth Southgate added: “I don’t think we could have predicted how quickly Bellingham could mature. Over the last five months it has reached another level.
“We wanted to invest in young players because we thought they could be special in the future. Sometimes you suffer because they won’t be perfect, but later you get those performances.”
‘Birmingham were right to take their shirt off’ – your view
BBC Sports readers voted Bellingham their player of the match with a final mark of 8.53. Here’s what you were saying about his performance during Sunday’s live text coverage…
Joe: Tonight is the Bellingham show! He may not be on the scoresheet, but he’s leading this game!
Matty: Jude Bellingham is an absolute phenomenon. Unbelievable.
Shambhav: Jude Bellingham: Generational Talent.
Said: England without Bellingham would be below average…he’s a playmaker.
Cris: It turns out that the solution to the Lampard-Gerrard problem is Jude Bellingham.
Andrew: Maybe Birmingham City Football Club were onto something when they retired Jude Bellingham’s number 22 shirt when he left for Borussia Dortmund aged 17…