Which shirt number will Bellingham wear at Real Madrid?
Real Madrid have confirmed the signing of Borussia Dortmund and England midfielder Jude Bellingham. What shirt will he be given at the Bernabéu?
Jude Bellingham, whose transfer to Real Madrid has now been confirmed, may not get to wear his preferred shirt number at the LaLiga club.
Bellingham has worn No. 22 throughout his club career so far - a choice that goes back to his days in the Birmingham City youth academy. As things stand, however, that number is taken at Madrid: defender Antonio Rüdiger has worn it since he joined from Chelsea last summer.
Bellingham a 4, 8 and 10 rolled into one
Bellingham prefers No. 22 because it represents his ability to operate in a number of midfield roles. Speaking to UK radio station TalkSPORT in 2021, former Birmingham head of youth Mike Dodds explained: “He would have been about 13 or 14 and like most boys that age, they want to be a number 10. And I remember, we sat down with him and we said, ‘We think you’re doing yourself a disservice, we think you can do all of it.’ So we came up with, ‘We think you can be a 22.’
“His eyes lit up and we knew we had hooked him from then on in! We said we thought he could be a holding midfielder, or a four. We thought he could be a box-to-box [midfielder], which is an eight, and we thought he could be a scorer and a creator, so a 10. And from the age of 13 onwards he has held on to that all the way through and you can see that in his game.”
After Bellingham left Birmingham for Borussia Dortmund in 2020, having made 44 first-team appearances, the Blues retired his No. 22 shirt. The England star then sported the number in each of his 132 games for Dortmund over the last three seasons.
Potential for Rüdiger to swap?
Could Rüdiger be persuaded to hand the number over to Bellingham? That seems a feasible outcome; after all, the German had never previously worn the shirt before arriving at Madrid, so it doesn’t appear to hold any particular significance for him.
It’s also possible that other summer transfer business at the Bernabéu could lead Rüdiger to change numbers anyway. Centre-back Jesús Vallejo, the current incumbent of Madrid’s No. 5 jersey, looks to be a prime candidate to leave the club in the close season, having made just four appearances for Los Blancos this term. Vallejo’s shirt could go to Rüdiger in the near future.
Vinícius beats Bellingham to No. 7
While Bellingham donned his trusty No. 22 for England at the World Cup in Qatar, he has played in a range of other numbers for the Three Lions, too - most frequently 8 and 10. At present, those two shirts are also occupied at Madrid, though: they’re in the hands of midfield stalwarts Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, respectively. Although Kroos and Modric are out of contract at the end of June, the indications are that they will both remain at the Bernabéu for another year at least.
The only ‘first XI’ number available at Madrid right now is 9, which has been vacated by striker Karim Benzema. After 14 seasons at the Bernabéu, Benzema this month opted to join Saudi Pro League club Al Ittihad.
7 and 11 were also briefly free following the end of the season, after Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio’s summer departures were confirmed. 7 seemed like a particularly feasible option for Bellingham, who has played in the number once before for England; however, it has now been announced that Vinícius Júnior will take the shirt. Rodrygo Goes, meanwhile, has been installed as the new incumbent of the No. 11 jersey.
Other available numbers...
A rather less attractive number that’s now free at Madrid is 24, which was worn by departing striker Mariano Díaz. Nos. 14, 20 and 21 are also available, while 16 and 19, which belong to Álvaro Odriozola and Dani Ceballos, respectively, may also be up for grabs in the near future.
Bellingham, who is to join Madrid on a six-year contract, will be unveiled by the 14-time European champions on Thursday 15 June, at the club’s Valdebebas training ground.