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Championship relegation battle made me grow up, says Bellingham

Jude Bellingham

Kampala, Uganda | XINHUA |    The scene on the training ground in the Swiss mountain town of Bad Ragaz appears to be the starting point for Jude Bellingham’s new life.

His tough tackling seems to have taken his teammates aback. Not many at Borussia Dortmund seemed to have been prepared for such a fearless 17-year-old.

In normal life, the Birmingham-born midfielder might be the well-behaved boy from next door. Once on the pitch, an unbreakable determination seems to take hold of Dortmund’s new signing.

In the 2012 Bundesliga champions’ pre-season training camp, fans and team-mates quickly become aware of why Dortmund invested 23 million euros to snap up one of England’s most promising youngsters from second-tier Birmingham City.

Bellingham enthuses by proving he can go the hard way and deliver the highest technical standards.

In contrast, the rookie isn’t surprised by his ruthlessness. “Trying to save your club in a Championship relegation battle makes you grow up,” he told Xinhua.

“Birmingham means a lot to me. Saving your home club from relegation makes you go beyond your limits,” he added.

He learned to take responsibility in his first professional season, he claims.

Without taking a break, Bellingham’s world has now changed from struggling against relegation to the prospect of playing in one of Europe’s leading leagues, the Bundesliga, and the UEFA Champions League.

The Englishman chose Dortmund as his next step, “as the German club provides the best chance for young talents to develop to the next level.”

To don Dortmund’s shirt, he rejected offers from several leading European clubs like Bayern Munich, acknowledging that the presence of compatriot Jadon Sancho made him choose Dortmund. “He was highly influential,” Bellingham commented.

Sancho has developed into one of Europe’s most coveted forwards since joining Dortmund in 2017 from Manchester City.

The prospect of actually playing at a high level helped him find his new club. “It is apparent that young players here get the chance to move forwards. It is a perfect match for my situation,” Bellingham emphasized.

Dortmund’s offer was a unique opportunity to train with a more advanced squad as “they ask for your best skills in every training session.”

Having slipped into Borussia’s shirt, the new arrival soon talks about wanting to win titles.

“I heard about Dortmund’s ambitions, and I feel comfortable with them. It seems common sense here to win titles,” he said, mentioning the German Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League.

Playing in a squad full of promising talents such as Erling Haaland, Giovanni Reyna, Sancho and Youssoufa Moukoko “feels like playing with your friends in the backyard. It helps you to feel at home right away.”

Dortmund coach Lucien Favre is convinced his new apprentice is a world-class player in the making, calling Bellingham’s speed, determination, robustness, and mental state is unique.

“Versatility might be my strongest advantage,” the youngster said, adding he prefers the job as a number 8. The midfield role provides space to run into and dominate the game, “That’s what I like best.”

To avoid any homesickness, Bellingham’s mother Denise has joined him in his Dortmund apartment, with both having taken up German lessons.

With a smile running over his face, the youngster presented his first learning success. “I like ‘auf geht’s (Let’s go). I use it all the time.”

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XINHUA

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