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Jude Bellingham: The untold story of €103m new galactico

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Just 16 years of age, a young Jude Bellingham broke into Birmingham’s first team. His first opponent? Portsmouth in the League Cup. Though the tie ended in a 3-0 defeat, Bellingham left his imprint on the English game. Battling for every ball, contesting on every blade of grass, it was clear to see this boy had something…

‘He ended up taking us to the national finals’
Though Jude’s career would turn to football, his ability to apply himself and compete in any sport was apparent from the get go. His natural ability, combined with hard work and application would see him succeed at whatever challenge was put in front of him. Long distance running, sprint races and cricket were among the other sports that Jude excelled in. Jude’s Primary school teacher James Ayers said: “He had the mentality where if he saw someone achieving something or doing something that he thought was better than him, he would focus his attention on that.”

Jude’s football life began in Stourbridge, playing for his local side in the area he grew up. It wasn’t long before Jude joined Birmingham’s U8s, progressing through the academy until breaking into the U18s side at the age of 14. Team-mate and schoolfriend Geraldo Bajrami said: “I just remember at school, at the playground he would be 11, playing with the 16-year-olds, ripping them to shreds.”

It was always apparent Jude was ahead of his age group showing maturity and drive. His academy coach at Birmingham Mike Dodds told Sky Sports News: “Around 11, 12, 13 was probably the kind of time where he’s accelerating quicker than the boys in his age group. He was my best coach educator, I could never go into a training session with Jude Bellingham and not be planned and organised.”

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Dodd also explains the thought process behind the 22 shirt Jude wore. He explained his idea that the youngster would possess the attributes of a number four, five, six, and number eight player. As a result, Dodds felt this made him a more rounded player who was adaptable to any situation in midfield.

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Agile, quick, and technically gifted, Jude would run rings around his team-mates so yet again, he was fast-tracked into the U23s team at 15-years-old. Three goals from 10 appearances didn’t go unnoticed in the development squad, with Jude gradually being introduced to the first team as a schoolboy. Bellingham took up a two-year scholarship beginning in July 2019. His home league debut for Birmingham was against Stoke City, coming on as substitute after 30 minutes had been played.

Birmingham were 1-0 down at this point but an inspired Bellingham performance resulted in a Blues 2-1 victory, with Jude scoring the winner.

Starting out on the left wing, Jude was eventually pushed into the centre of midfield, and his impressive performances won him EFL young player of the month in November 2019. His manager at the time Pep Clotet said: “he feels more comfortable in midfield.”

There was widespread interest in the 2020 January transfer window even though he had only played half a season. Fortunately for Birmingham he stayed, with Clotet saying: “I was a little bit afraid we might even lose Jude,” showing just how important he was at just 16 years of age.

He finished the season with four goals and 44 appearances across all competitions, helping Birmingham secure their Championship status after a turbulent season. This would be his final campaign in the Midlands.

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Bellingham would eventually leave Birmingham in the summer of 2020. Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund were the favourites to secure his signature. It had been reported that the midfielder’s father Mark visited multiple top European sides to consider their suitability to find the next important step in his career.

In the end, the famous yellow wall of Borussia Dortmund proved to be the destination. Renowned for developing young prospects and providing them game time, it appeared to be a logical decision for the midfielder to further his career. Twenty-five million pounds later and donning their distinctive black and yellow shirt, Jude was a Borussia Dortmund player at 17. It was the most expensive transfer in history for a 17-year-old, and he showed his talent, scoring on his debut against MSV Duisburg on September 14, 2020.

Five days later he made his Bundesliga debut against Borussia Mönchengladbach, assisting the opening goal in a 3-0 win. The following month Jude faced Lazio in the Champions League at 17 years and 113 days old, making him the youngest Englishman to play in the competition, a record previously set by Manchester City’s Phil Foden.

Former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Thomas Delaney could see straight away Jude was different to your average teenager describing. Delaney described him as “intense”, adding: “He expects a lot from himself and he expects a lot from his surroundings… he has a big big heart of going the extra mile”. Delaney even went on to make comparisons to the prolific Erling Haaland. “They have this loose wire which I think is very important…this mentality of winning in training, in every part of the game.”

Bellingham would shine yet again on the biggest stage in Europe against Manchester City during the quarter-final knockout stage. He was heavily involved in Marco Reus’ goal in the first away leg, as well as scoring in the second home leg. A fine strike into the top right corner, just inside the 25-yard box. If you hadn’t heard the name Jude Bellingham before, you had now. Bellingham went on to finish his debut season in Germany with 46 appearances and four goals in all competitions, winning the DFB-Pokal (his first major trophy), and was awarded “Newcomer of the season” by his fellow players.

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Education
Bellingham continued to study remotely with Loughborough University while at Dortmund. He completed his diploma with his college mentor Jason Ramsey saying: “He could put his mind to absolutely anything, he could be a lawyer, he could be a solicitor, he’s being a footballer…he could be a teacher himself, he could be a reporter and I still think he’d be one of the best.” Bellingham juggled his education with the pressures of being a professional footballer, completing his course with the high standards he carries in all walks of life.

Coinciding with his club success, Bellingham’s international career took a step to the next level in the 2020/21 season. He made his debut replacing Mason Mount against the Republic of Ireland in November leading to his squad selection for the 2020 European Championships, which was subsequently delayed until 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Bellingham made multiple substitution appearances in the tournament, making him, at the time, the youngest player to have feature at the tournament. Chris Powell, England coach at the time, said: “The biggest compliment I can give Jude is during the Euros, the camp, and the training, all you ever heard was, ‘Well played Jude’, ‘Fantastic Jude’, ‘Well done Bellers’. It was like watching a player who had a real idea of the game.”

Sky Sports

 

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Euro 2024: UEFA clarify Golden Boot rule with Kane, Olmo level

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Euro 2024: UEFA clarify Golden Boot rule with Kane, Olmo level

UEFA have said that they will share the Euro 2024 Golden Boot between six players if Sunday’s final between England and Spain fails to produce a clear winner of the trophy — three years after Cristiano Ronaldo won the award at Euro 2020 despite being level on five goals with Czechia’s Patrik Schick.

England captain Harry Kane and Spain forward Dani Olmo are two of six players tied on three goals so far in the tournament as they head into the final in Berlin. Cody Gakpo (Netherlands), Georges Mikautadze (Georgia), Jamal Musiala (Germany) and Ivan Schranz (Slovakia) make up the congested leaderboard.

Jude Bellingham and Fabián Ruiz go into the final with prospects of topping the scoring charts having both scored two goals at Euro 2024, but Kane and Olmo are favourites to move clear of the pack by taking their tally to at least four goals in the Olympiastadion.

But with nothing separating the six players on three goals, UEFA have confirmed that the top scorer prize will be shared unless a player can break the four-goal mark.

The policy marks a change from the previous tournament when Portugal forward Ronaldo was announced as the winner due to having registered one assist alongside his five goals at the pandemic-delayed Euro 2020. Schick, who tied with Ronaldo on five goals, missed out because he hadn’t registered an assist in the competition.

If nobody registers a fourth Euro 2024 goal on Sunday, three goals will be the lowest tally for a Golden Boot winner since Euro 2012 when Fernando Torres (Spain), Mario Gomez (Germany) and Alan Dzagoev (Russia) all ended the tournament with three goals.

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Torres was awarded the golden boot that year as he played fewer minutes than the players who had scored three goals.

Source: Espn

 

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Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz to clash for Wimbledon title again

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Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz to clash for Wimbledon title again

Carlos Alcaraz is only a couple of months past his 21st birthday, and yet this whole Grand Slam success thing is already a bit been-there, done-that for him.

Moving a step closer to a second consecutive Wimbledon trophy and fourth major championship overall, Alcaraz overcame a shaky start Friday to beat Daniil Medvedev 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals at Centre Court.

“I feel like I’m not new anymore. I feel like I know how I’m going to feel before the final. I’ve been in this position before,” Alcaraz said. “I will try to do the things that I did well last year and try to be better.”

Like last year, his opponent in the title match will be Novak Djokovic, who advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory against No. 25 seed Lorenzo Musetti in the second semifinal. Djokovic won 15 of 16 points when he went to the net in the first set and finished 43-for-56 in that category.

It will be the first time the same two men meet in consecutive Wimbledon finals since Djokovic beat Roger Federer in 2014 and 2015.

“He’s as complete a player as they come,” Djokovic said about Alcaraz, who won the 2023 final in five sets. “It’s going to take the best of my abilities on the court overall to beat him.”

Djokovic, who hadn’t reached a final at any tournament all season and needed surgery in June for a torn meniscus in his right knee, will be vying for his eighth championship at the All England Club. That would tie Federer’s mark for the most by a man — and put him one behind Martina Navratilova’s record of nine — while making the 37-year-old from Serbia the first player in tennis history with 25 Grand Slam titles.

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“I know what I have to do,” Alcaraz said. “I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me.”

Late in Djokovic’s semifinal, as he let his first three match points slip away, fans hoping for a longer match began changing “Lo-ren-zo!” One yelled out during a point, bothering Djokovic, who soon was wiping away fake tears mockingly after Musetti failed to convert a break chance in the last game.

The No. 2-seeded Djokovic, who got a walkover in the quarterfinals when his opponent, Alex de Minaur, withdrew with a hip injury, eventually worked his way into his 10th final at Wimbledon and 37th at a major.

“I don’t want to stop here,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully I’ll get my hands on that trophy on Sunday.”

Musetti, who had dragged Djokovic to five sets in the latest ever finish at Roland Garros last month and was appearing in a major semifinal for the first time, was left to rue another defeat and another lost opportunity to pull off a major upset.

“This was the seventh time that we were playing against each other, and I’ve never faced a Nole like this,” Musetti said. “I was really impressed. … I think his tennis really fits well on this surface, especially how he returns.”

After a so-so opening set against Medvedev, Alcaraz transformed back into the energetic, attacking, crowd-pleasing force who already was the first teenager to be No. 1 in the ATP rankings and is the youngest man to have won a major trophy on three surfaces: grass, clay and hard courts.

Now the Spaniard is one victory away from joining Boris Becker and Bjorn Borg as the only men in the Open era, which began in 1968, with multiple championships at the All England Club before turning 22.

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Alcaraz also triumphed at the US Open in 2022 and the French Open last month and is 3-0 in major finals.

“We’re going to see a lot of him in the future, no doubt,” Djokovic said. “He’s going to win many more Grand Slams.”

On a cloudy afternoon — the main stadium’s retractable roof was open because there was none of the rain that fell throughout the first 1½ weeks of the tournament — the No. 3-seeded Alcaraz went through some ups and downs against No. 5 Medvedev, a 28-year-old from Russia.

“I started really, really nervous,” Alcaraz said. “He was dominating the match, playing a great, great tennis. … It was difficult for me.”

Medvedev grabbed an early 5-2 lead but then got into trouble with his play and temper.

Alcaraz broke to get within 5-4 with a drop shot that chair umpire Eva Asderaki ruled — correctly, according to TV replays — bounced twice before Medvedev got his racket on the ball. He voiced his displeasure, and Asderaki, after climbing down from her seat to huddle with tournament referee Denise Parnell during the ensuing changeover, issued a warning to Medvedev for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“I said something in Russian. Not unpleasant, but not over the line,” Medvedev said at his news conference.

He regrouped quickly and was just about perfect in that set’s tiebreaker.

Then it was Alcaraz’s turn to get headed in the right direction, which didn’t take long. He got the last break he would need for a 4-3 edge in the fourth when Medvedev sailed a backhand long then sat in his sideline chair, locked eyes with his two coaches and started muttering and gesticulating.

READ ALSO  Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz to clash for Wimbledon title again

“I was playing well,” Medvedev said, “and just it was not enough.”

Nearly every time Alcaraz emitted one of his “Uh-eh!” two-syllable grunts while unleashing a booming forehand, spectators audibly gasped, regardless of whether the point continued. Often enough, it didn’t: Of the match’s 28 forehand winners, 24 were produced by Alcaraz’s racket.

As dangerous Alcaraz can be at his aggressive best, his defense is something to marvel at too.

At times, it feels as though an exchange is never over until he decides it is. And if it appears that way from the comfort of the stands, just imagine how frustrating that must be for foes. On one point, Alcaraz left a mark several feet long in the grass when he sprinted and slid to reach an apparently unreachable ball. He sent up a lob that drew an errant Medvedev overhead.

In addition to the Wimbledon men’s final, Sunday’s sports schedule features the final of the men’s soccer European Championship in Germany, where Spain will meet England.

When Alcaraz alluded to that in his on-court interview by saying, “It’s going to be a really good day for the Spanish people as well,” he drew boos from the locals. Alcaraz smiled and added: “I didn’t say Spain is going to win. I just said that it’s going to be a really fun, fun day.”

 

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UEFA releases new club rankings [Top 20]

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UEFA releases new club rankings [Top 20]

UEFA published the latest club rankings on Friday. It places Manchester City at number one, despite their failure to win back-to-back Champions League titles.

Real Madrid, who eventually won the trophy, are in second place.

Bayern Munich are ranked third, despite losing out on the Bundesliga title to Bayer Leverkusen.

Rounding out the top five are Liverpool followed by Roma.

The next Premier League side to feature in the coefficient are Chelsea in ninth, followed by Manchester United in 14th, West Ham in 16th and Arsenal in 19th.

The UEFA club coefficients are calculated based on a team’s performances in European competitions from the previous five seasons.

The rankings also affect how clubs are seeded in UEFA draws for upcoming European competitions.

UEFA club rankings for 2024/25 season (Top 20)

1. Manchester City

2. Real Madrid

3. Bayern Munich

4. Liverpool

5. Roma

6. PSG

7. Villarreal

8. Borussia Dortmund

9. Chelsea

10. Inter Milan

11. Bayer Leverkusen

12. FC Porto

13. RB Leipzig

14. Manchester United

15. Benfica

16. West Ham

17. Atletico Madrid

18. Barcelona

19. Arsenal

20. Atalanta

 

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Euro 2024: UEFA told to ‘blacklist’ referee Zwayer after England’s win over Netherlands

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UEFA told to ‘blacklist’ referee Zwayer after England’s win over Netherlands

Former Netherlands striker, Pierre van Hooijdonk has called on UEFA to ‘blacklist’ referee, Felix Zwayer following England’s recent Euro 2024 semi-final win over Netherlands.

England will face Spain in the Euro 2024 final on Sunday in Berlin after Ollie Watkins’ 90th minute winner sealed a 2-1 victory for Gareth Southgate’s side.

The Three Lions were gifted a penalty in the first half of the match when Denzel Dumfries attempted to block Harry Kane’s shot, judged to have clipped the England captain in the process.

A VAR review resulted in referee Zwayer overturning his original decision and awarded England a penalty which Kane converted.

However, Van Hooijdonk wants Zwayer to be banned from major matches in the future.

“They [England] can thank Felix Zwayer. He really needs to be blacklisted. Terrible,” van Hooijdonk told NOS.

“Also in the second half. A duel with Cody Gakpo where he simply blew his whistle again, ten meters from the linesman. Those are moments that were crucial in this match.”

He added, “We can talk about it at length, but if you’re going to award a penalty for this. Then you could end up with eight of them on the spot in the final. Really terrible.”

 

READ ALSO  Euro 2024: UEFA told to ‘blacklist’ referee Zwayer after England’s win over Netherlands
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Van de Beek joins Girona from Man Utd

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Van de Beek joins Girona from Man Utd

Donny van de Beek has completed a permanent move to LaLiga side Girona from Manchester United.

The Dutchman struggled in his four years at Old Trafford after he moved to the club from Ajax in a £39m deal in September 2020.

Man Utd are understood to have received a fixed fee of £500k from Girona for the 27-year-old, while bonuses could increase this to an eventual £7.6m (€9.1m), as well as a sizeable share of any sell-on.

Van de Beek made 62 appearances for Man Utd in all competitions and scored just twice.

Source: Sky Sport

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Athletic president: We don’t need to sell Williams

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Athletic president: We don't need to sell Williams

Athletic Bilbao’s president has hit out at the “bombardment” of transfer questions made to Nico Williams, adding the Spanish club can safely keep players such as the Spanish winger.

Williams has shone for Spain at Euro 2024 but has faced lots of speculation over his future at Athletic.

“Nico is a footballer very committed to Athletic Club, who has been subjected to an excessive and uncontrolled bombardment of questions while at the Euro Cup. The Spanish Federation has not known how to protect him,” said Athletic president Jon Uriarte.

“Athletic aims for the maximum, without limits,” he added. “We are showing that we have a winning project for footballers and coaches.

“We have renewed the contracts of players who are playing in the Euro Cup, such as Unai Simón or Dani Vivian, and coveted players such as Benat Prados, Oihan Sancet, Julen Aggirezabala or Aitor Paredes have also signed for several seasons, to give some examples.

“Athletic Club is economically, socially and sportingly capable of keeping footballers of the calibre of those named in its structure, including Nico Williams.”

Source: Sky Sport

READ ALSO  UEFA releases new club rankings [Top 20]
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