Jude Bellingham is one of the most coveted players in world football currently, and if, as expected, he moves on this summer, he will likely command a fee in excess of eight figures.
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder has been strongly linked with a move this summer, with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid all thought to be interested. However Spanish scout Andres Manzano has told Diario AS (via MD) that both Real Madrid and Barcelona could have had Bellingham for free, if they had just listened to him.
“He was going to leave [Birmingham City] and my job consisted of offering ihim to important clubs, including Real Madrid and Barca.”
“Both had the opportunity to trial him but neither wanted to face the investment it required at that time. They did not bet on him.”
Manzano goes on to detail that as soon as he saw Bellingham, he knew he had a different talent on his hands, with the physicality of Steven Gerrard but the touch of Zinedine Zidane.
He also convinced Birmingham to renew Bellingham ahead of time so that he did not leave for free at the age of 16. Bellingham left at 17, but brought Birmingham a record €25m fee.
“I have a lot of experience in grassroots football and I have seen players like Iniesta, Fabregas or Pique grow. I told the directors that Jude was going to be a similar case to them. I convinced them by saying that they had to do the impossible for him to stay because I was going to be a first-team player immediately. That’s why we had to sign him urgently because he could go free at 16. Luckily we reached an agreement and we managed to keep him.”
No doubt many of the world’s best footballers have similar stories, but this one may rankle a little more with those at the El Clasico duo. Particularly given the fee that Real Madrid may spend on him. Equally, the opportunities Bellingham has had at Dortmund were unlikely to be given to him at the Santiago Bernabeu, and there is a chance he would not have made the leaps he has in the past three years.