Ex-Real Madrid stars’ Bellingham verdict: “He has everything it takes to become an all-time great”
As Jude Bellingham continues to shine for Real Madrid since his summer arrival, AS spoke to former stars of Los Blancos to get their take on his sublime start in Spain.
Earlier this season, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti declared that Jude Bellingham was “comfortably” capable of scoring 20 to 25 goals this term. The Italian wasn’t wrong. We’re only just into December, and the €103 million ($110 million) summer signing is already well into double figures. Bellingham took his tally to 15 in last week’s Champions League win over Napoli, powering in a header that had the Bernabéu fans singing “Hey Jude” once more - and as they departed the stadium, their astonishment was clear. “He’s done it again,” one supporter could be heard purring.
In the wake of the England midfielder’s sublime start to life at the 14-time European champions, AS sat down with seven former Madrid stars to get their take on the new darling of the Bernabéu.
José ‘Pirri’ Martínez (Real Madrid 1964-80, now the club’s honorary president)
“He’s a fantastic boy: he’s well mannered, has a winning mentality and is a great lad to have in the dressing room. And in terms of his skill set as a player, he’s so complete. He carries the ball well, he’s an elegant player, he’s hard-working, he has really good vision and, most importantly, he’s a true team player. It’s wonderful to watch him play, to watch the things he does with the ball and the commitment he shows. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a complete player. Us Madridistas are delighted to have him here with us.”
Predrag Mijatovic (Real Madrid 1996-99)
“It’s really impressive, the way he has immediately looked so at home alongside team-mates who, let’s not forget, are massive names. Lads who have won five Champions Leagues! The bond he has struck up with the fans, right from the off: that tells me that, firstly, he’s a very smart lad and, secondly, that he was destined to play for Real Madrid. I really can’t believe what’s happening, to be honest. He’s been at the club for two months, and he already looks like a Madrid veteran. Someone who has been in the team for a decade. Those of us who have played for this club know only too well that it’s a really tough, demanding environment. So that tells me a lot about him. Above and beyond his goals and performances, what most impresses me is the way he carries himself, and the way he ‘gets’ the club and has struck up a bond with the supporters. I can’t think of any other player who has managed that so quickly, and at such a young age.”
José Antonio Camacho (Real Madrid 1974-89)
“He’s playing as well as anyone around right now. I think he needed to come to a club like Real Madrid to take that step up to the very highest level of performance. He’s showing just how good he is, both for Madrid and England. He’s still very young, so he’s got many years ahead of him. He’s the kind of modern footballer that any team would like to have in their ranks. It’s also true, though, that we mustn’t get too carried away just yet: hopefully he keeps on playing the way he is for many years to come, and this is just the start of a magnificent career. If he establishes himself once and for all as the world’s best player, whenever that may be, that’ll obviously be great for Madrid. I think he’s got a great future ahead of him, but I’ll say it again: let’s not get too carried away just yet.”
Míchel (Real Madrid 1982-96)
“It’s very simple: he’s an exceptional footballer. And he’s playing at a top, top club, so they combine to make each other better. It’s not the first time that this has happened to a player of his quality, and it’s not the first time that it has happened to Real Madrid. He’s a superlative talent and he’s showing that with the team-mates he has by his side, and with the support of the club, he can produce these [scoring] figures. This is a dynamic that has occurred throughout Real Madrid’s history: top players reap the benefits of playing for this club, and the club reaps the benefits of having top players. A terrific signing.”
Guti (Real Madrid 1995-2010)
“He’s the most complete footballer around in the modern game. A player who has all the qualities you need in this day and age. He’s powerful, he’s physical, he links up well with his team-mates, gets forward into great positions and is now scoring a bucketload of goals. The way he plays, the charisma he has and the way he has won over the Bernabéu - put all that together, and it’s turning him into one of the dressing room’s leaders. He’s been a wonderful signing by the club’s president, Florentino Pérez. A unique player who knew right away that he wanted to come to Real Madrid; he didn’t want to go anywhere else. That has only made the Madrid fans love him even more. When a player says and shows that their dream is to play here, for this club, supporters love that. He has everything it takes to become an all-time great.”
Fernando Morientes (Real Madrid 1997-2005)
“What I find really striking is the leadership role he’s taking on, despite being so young. And he’s so consistent. There are players who arrive, have a couple of good games, and that’s it. But he’s performing week in, week out. The fans really like him, and he looks really happy. Often, players arrive from abroad and struggle to settle in. Jude can be a leader for this team. He has immense talent: when he receives the ball, you always get the feeling that something’s about to happen. When there’s space to run into, he bursts forward at speed, with such elegance. And you can see that he has a striker’s instinct - that’s why he’s scoring so many goals. He’s not one of those players who hangs back in an attack; he always wants to push for more and more. He’s always alive to the loose ball: he pushes on into the area and gets after the rebound. He’s made everyone sit up and take notice.”
Álvaro Benito - (Real Madrid 1995-2002)
“He’s even better than we thought he was. Some will have thought he was going to be terrific, others will have thought he had the potential to be… either way, he’s exceeded everyone’s expectations. I’m not sure I could say what his strengths are, exactly, because he does everything so well. Anything a footballer needs to do out on the pitch, he can do it - and he does it fantastically well. He scores goals, he has personality, he can beat players, he can play a pass. He’s intelligent, he’s physically strong, he puts a shift in… The boy’s got the lot. The lot.”