Jude Bellingham’s promising start with Real Madrid has quickly helped quell some of the disappointment prompted by Karim Benzema’s departure and the club’s failure to bring in Kylian Mbappe.
Madrid’s top signing so far this year got off to a red-hot start, scoring once in the team’s 2-0 win at Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish league opener and twice in the 3-1 win at Almeria last weekend. Bellingham will be attracting all the attention again when Madrid visits Celta Vigo on Friday to try to maintain a perfect record.
His arrival brought plenty of excitement to Madrid fans hopeful he could make an instant impact and boost the team’s midfield, and his early performances exceeded even some of the most optimistic expectations.
Most importantly, they gave Madrid assurance that it has an important attacking option in a sector of the squad that had many fans worried because of its lack of depth. Madrid lost Benzema and three other forwards in the offseason — Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio and Mariano Díaz. The only addition to the attack was Spain striker Joselu, who came on a loan from Espanyol.
“We think that Bellingham’s arrival makes up for Karim’s absence,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti told Italy’s Radio Serie A on Tuesday in comments picked up by the Spanish sports daily Marca. “He is a serious and mature kid, with a lot of quality. What he has been able to do so far doesn’t surprise those who know him. What is a surprise is that he is only 20 years old.”
The England midfielder was one of the most sought-after players this year, joining Madrid on a 130 million euro ($141 million) move from Borussia Dortmund.
“I wasn’t surprised by Bellingham’s adaptation because he didn’t exactly play in a ’10′ position at Dortmund,” Ancelotti said Thursday. “But he did show that he was a more direct player, maybe more on the ball than off the ball, but he was a direct player. He’s adapted very well because he’s a very intelligent player who moves very well without the ball.”
Spanish daily Marca said the high number of shirts sold with Bellingham’s name has allowed Madrid to reach the same levels of sales as last summer when it won its 14th European title. In marketing numbers, Bellingham was quickly becoming on par with Vinicius Junior and Eduardo Camavinga, the players with most shirt sales.
The other Madrid forwards this season are Vinicius and Rodrygo, the Brazilian duo who will likely have a bigger leading role after the departures in attack. The team lists Brahim Diaz as a forward as well, though he played often in midfield during his loan with AC Milan.
Ancelotti said newly signed goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga will start in goal, with Andriy Lunin going back to the bench. Kepa arrived to help make up for the absence of injured regular starter Thibaut Courtois.
Celta, with former Madrid coach Rafa Benítez at the helm this season, will be looking to win its first match after opening with a 2-0 home loss against Osasuna and a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad thanks to Oscar Mingueza’s stoppage-time equalizer.
Madrid is playing its first three games on the road because of renovation work at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Defending champion Barcelona will face Villarreal on Sunday to try to win its second consecutive match after opening with a 0-0 draw at Getafe. The Catalan club will still be without coach Xavi Hernandez and forward Raphinha, who received two-game suspensions after being sent off against Getafe. Xavi was red-carded for complaining with the referee, while Raphinha was caught elbowing an opponent. Villarreal opened with a 2-1 loss to Real Betis at home but rebounded with a 1-0 win at Mallorca.
Atletico Madrid on Monday visits Rayo Vallecano, one of the three teams to start with a pair of victories, along with Real Madrid and Valencia. Atletico won its opener against Granada and drew with Betis last weekend.
Valencia goes for its third straight win when it hosts Osasuna on Sunday, while Sevilla tries to earn its first point following consecutive losses when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Sociedad looks to breakthrough with a victory after two draws when it visits promoted Las Palmas on Friday. Athletic Bilbao hosts Betis on Sunday.
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