With Kalvin Phillips sidelined with a shoulder injury and in a race against time to be fit for the Qatar World Cup, England manager Gareth Southgate has been left weighing up his options in midfield.
The now Manchester City player had formed a solid partnership with Declan Rice in the holding positions at Euro 2020 as the Three Lions reached the final, but the West Ham United captain will now likely need to find his bearings with a new partner.
Luckily for England, who are the fourth favourites in the FIFA World Cup betting, they have the perfect replacement for Phillips in the form of Jude Bellingham. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder has rose to superstardom in the last couple of seasons and is now considered one of the best young players in the game.
And, despite being just 19 years of age, there is no doubt that he is ready to step up and feature for England in the centre of the park as they aim to end their 55 years of hurt in the Middle East this winter.
Don’t let his age fool you either, Bellingham has already made over 100 appearances for the German Bundesliga giants and is no stranger to the England fold — racking up 17 caps in the last couple of years and featuring in five of their six recent Nations League fixtures.
People laughed when Birmingham City infamously retired his No.22 shirt when he left the Midlands for the North Rhine-Westphalia in 2020, mainly due to the fact he featured in the Blues’ senior squad for just one season. But Birmingham were well aware of the star he was going to become and he’s well on course to achieve great things.
Bellingham appears to be the complete midfielder already, with no sign of obvious weakness in his game. The 19-year-old has eight goals — four of which came in the Champions League — and two assists in 18 appearances (at the time of writing) as he has been one of the best players for BVB so far this season.
His first touch, finishing, pace, athleticism, passing and ability to read the game when on the ball is beyond his age and make him a key component to the way in which Dortmund play — as he’s able to speed the game up and slow it down when needs be, while also being single handily able to change games.
Defensively, Bellingham is just as capable — with his ability to read the game that we already mentioned ensuring that he can sniff out danger when on the other side of the ball. He does the job of a box-to-box midfielder extremely well, going forward and getting back with great aplomb, and his performances could be crucial in enhancing the England World Cup odds.
Is he the right man to fill the void beside Rice in the Middle East? Almost certainly. In fact, we’d go as far as saying he should be the West Ham man’s partner in the centre regardless of Phillips’ fitness concerns — that’s how good he is. This is a massive moment in his career, and there will be a lot of expectation on his shoulders, but he’ll rise to the occasion.