Jude Bellingham bounced back from a rare off day with a sensational performance in England’s 3-1 victory against Scotland on Tuesday -- again underlining why he is regarded as one of the best young players in the world.
The 20-year-old has taken Real Madrid by storm, scoring five goals in his first four games for the club since his big-money move from Borussia Dortmund in the close season.
Like many of his team mates he did not hit the heights in a 1-1 draw against Ukraine on Saturday as England dropped points for the first time in Euro 2024 qualifying Group C.
But against an outclassed Scotland he was magnificent in a more advanced role, producing a silky display which included a goal and an assist for captain Harry Kane.
“I wasn’t happy with how I played against Ukraine, it wasn’t anywhere near my best and the motivation is always to get back to your best. I got somewhere close tonight,” he said.
“It’s just a freedom role really. I get given the freedom by the amazing team mates and manager (Carlo Ancelotti) that I have (at Real Madrid).
“I know it depends on the system we (England) play, and we’ve got so many amazing players to accommodate, and so the team comes first always. I really enjoyed playing in that position today.”
While Bellingham could no doubt play anywhere, Southgate knows that making sure the former Birmingham City player is allowed to fully utilise his multi-faceted game will be key to England’s ambitions to win Euro 2024.
Scotland had no answer to him and they will not be alone.
“For a young man to have that kind of football brain, I love watching him,” former Scotland midfielder Graeme Souness told Channel 4. “Jude Bellingham is the real deal.”
England manager Southgate said that Bellingham did not have any point to prove despite a subdued display against Ukraine, with the draw leaving England six points clear at the top.
“Saturday was not his best game but we weren’t at the level we wanted to be and we knew he has a fantastic personality to come back from that,” Southgate said.
“His performances have been outstanding and one performance isn’t going to change that. As an attacking eight, or where he played tonight, he looks to get into the box.
“Tonight his athleticism to press was so important. Scotland’s system is difficult to play against so we slightly changed our system and he did that well.”
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