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Jude Bellingham on his Euro hopes, learning from England’s past failures and being grounded

Just 20 years old, Jude Bellingham already has the swagger of a superstar when scoring for England and Real Madrid.

Away from the stage of the stadium, the fearless, formidable player is focused on football rather than fame.

The midfield maestro is meeting Sky News for an exclusive interview that is a rarity as he rarely sits down with the media – with the playing career firmly the priority.

“I have a really good support network – my family, my friends, they keep me really grounded,” Bellingham said. “I don’t feel like a kid who’s at the top … I feel like I go in every day to work like everyone else, and I’m just privileged that my work I enjoy it as much as I do.

“My family keeps me grounded and they make me enjoy it every day and come home to feel quite normal.”

Normality might become harder to experience as his status soars.

Soccer Football - Spanish Super Cup - Final - Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Al-Awwal Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - January 15, 2024 Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham celebrates with the trophy after winning the Spanish Super Cup REUTERS/Juan Medina
Image: Bellingham celebrates with the trophy after winning the Spanish Super Cup with Real Madrid. Pic: Reuters

Last kick of the game

This trip back to England ticked off another landmark. A first goal at Wembley – salvaging a draw in last night’s friendly with Belgium with the last kick of the game.

Pride was tinged with regret that this international break finished without a victory.

The priority is the summer and going for glory at Euro 2024 in Germany after being part of the squad that reached the final at his first tournament in 2021.

When asked for his targets: “Trophies. Being able to give my country and my team, Real Madrid, great experiences and great memories of lifting trophies.”

Winning a trophy with England’s men would end a drought going back to the 1966 World Cup.

Soccer Football - 2023 Ballon d'Or - Chatelet Theatre, Paris, France - October 30, 2023 Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham after being awarded the Kopa trophy during the awards REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq
Image: Bellingham after being awarded the Kopa trophy. Pic: Reuters

‘Not the best memories’

Growing up, Bellingham was a fan witnessing the misery of a group-stage exit at the 2014 World Cup and embarrassment to Iceland at Euro 2016.

“They weren’t great for England, to be fair, so it’s difficult,” he said. “I always remember watching the games with my family.

“I remember going out to Iceland, Italy [Euro 2012 quarter-finals], and that was probably my two earliest [memories] until I kind of played in the next one.

“So not the best memories from the perspective of an England fan.

“But all round it was really fun, kind of experiencing that with my brother, and always saying to each other that one day we’ll be there and, hopefully this summer we’ll be again.”

Brother Jobe, who has forged his own playing career at Sunderland having both started out at hometown club Birmingham City, will be part of the family’s extended support for Jude.

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Soccer Football - Bundesliga - Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany - May 13, 2023 Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen DFL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AS IMAGE SEQUENCES AND/OR QUASI-VIDEO.
Image: Bellingham made his name at German side Borussia Dortmund. Pic: Reuters

England squad has ‘such a good environment’

In the England set-up, Jordan Henderson, who currently plays for Ajax, is one of the players that Bellingham turns to to help navigate the expectation of playing for a national team that has only recently enjoyed highs again.

“You learn from their pain if you like,” Bellingham says. “When I speak to Hendo, I’m really close with him, he tells me a lot about how lucky I am to be in this squad with such a good environment.

“It was a bit different when he was playing at the start. And I try and listen to him a lot because of the kind of role model that he is to me.

“He’s probably helped me coming into the squad and he’s helped me manage that expectation and that responsibility.”

Being adventurous with his career has also prepared him for international duty.

There was the move to Borussia Dortmund in the midst of the pandemic in 2020 from Birmingham. After collecting a German Cup during his three seasons it was time to step up to the kings of European football – Real Madrid.

“It’s been really, really tough, but really fun, adapting to life in Spain and kind of having more responsibility with the Madrid team and with the national team,” he said.

“I’m kind of just trying to soak it all in and enjoy the experience and yeah, hopefully, improve and thrive on the back of it.”

It is the most pressurised of footballing environments but he has already become integral to the team in his first season that could still end with LaLiga and Champions League titles.

England's Jude Bellingham celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game during the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Tuesday March 26, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire...RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping.
Image: Bellingham celebrates scoring England’s equaliser against Belgium at Wembley. Pic: PA

‘I move with the ball’

In 31 games, he has already scored 20 times and provided nine assists.

“I try and go out on the pitch and do my job and help my team win football games,” he says. “People kind of like the style which I play.

“I move with the ball and, and it’s really nice. I try to relate to the fans while I’m playing as well.”

Often the conversation goes back to club and country.

“I want the fans to feel like I’m another fan playing and representing them, because that’s what it is all about at the end of the day,” he says.

“And if they can see me and see someone that I can relate to and support, then it’s going to help the support of the team as well.

“And their support means a lot to us, more than they probably believe. So when the country is positive and when the fans are positive, the team will play better.”

He is ever the team player, but all the game’s personal accolades are destined to be filling his trophy cabinet one day.

“I wake up and I have to pinch myself, when I’m playing for England at Wembley or playing at the Bernabeu for Real Madrid,” he said.

“It’s something that I could never dreamed of happening this early, but grateful to everyone who’s played a part in my journey.”

And he is here giving back.

Being part of a Fun Football initiative is a sign of his commercial appeal as he is signed up to McDonald’s.

But it is chosen so he can inspire the next generation and ensure they have access to football – particularly those with a disability.

“What we’re seeing more of now is diversity in football, which is so important,” Bellingham says.

“Gender, race … shouldn’t matter when it comes to playing football. And it’s lovely to come here today and see the kids, regardless of who they are, what background they are from, any disabilities that they can enjoy playing football.”

Sky News Source