Chelsea may be ruing the Champions League draw for allowing Manchester City to get close to Borussia Dortmund. The pair played each other in the 2021 tournament and one year later Erling Haaland is tearing up the Premier League in a sky blue shirt. City have a relationship with Dortmund that Chelsea can’t currently rival, with Roman Abramovich and Marina Granovskaia not having been involved in transfer discussions with the German club in recent years.
Todd Boehly doesn’t even have that level of rapport yet, and it could harm the chances of securing one of the world’s most talented players. Chelsea, like any football club, will be desperate to come out on top in the battle to sign Jude Bellingham next summer. It is believed that the Blues did make an attempt, albeit it speculative, to get him one season early, but that was to no avail.
Next summer there won’t be the same freedom and they could end up in a mammoth bidding war. Expect the former Birmingham midfielder to be the transfer story of summer 2023. His rave reviews came after another standout European performance, scoring the opener against Man City, and Chelsea might have wished they’d been close and personal to him in London instead, maybe having a small chance to open dialogue with their opponents.
It hasn’t been for the want of trying at SW6, with Chelsea having courted Bellingham for a long time and former assistant manager Jody Morris revealed the conversations had when he was at the club in 2019, saying,
“they’re all going to be waxing lyrical and speaking of him in such a high manner. It was like that two or three years ago. “I remember when we had him in with us at Chelsea and we tried to sign him with Frank [Lampard] and he had anybody and everybody wanting his signature back then, and that was two-and-a-half/three years ago. He’s only improved and his price has certainly only gone up.”
The reported number for his signature is more than £103m, according to German media, and with Chelsea still requiring midfield reinforcements, especially after Graham Potter witnessed the weaknesses as much as the strengths of his own crop at Chelsea, Dortmund will be due a big pay check.
At just 19, Bellingham is already one of the standout players in his position, but as far as just how good he is, Jose Mourinho has already compared him to one of the best ever to grace the game. Speaking before the European Championships last summer, Mourinho said, “while it’s very dangerous to compare players — especially when you compare them with top, top performers — I do think Bellingham has something of Frank Lampard about him.
“Lampard shoots ten times, he scores nine goals, he always hits the target. But this kid is also capable of scoring from outside the box. He defends well as a midfield player but then he has the potential to be offensive. I like him very much. He is a box-to-box player, that old-school profile. “I love everything about Bellingham. I can’t believe his age, only 17 [now 19]. The way he plays, the way he brings himself into the game, shows so much maturity. We were aware of him when he was at Birmingham and Borussia Dortmund did a phenomenal job to sign him — as with Jadon Sancho.”
Bellingham is the youngest player in Gareth Southgate’s last England squad for the Nations League games against Italy and Germany before World Cup selection and, at 19, is the only teenager in the squad. He was part of the Euro 2020 squad last summer but didn’t start a match and played less than one hour in total across three games. Now, going back with one extra year of experience, Bellingham is in a position to seriously challenge for a starting position, one that Mourinho believed he deserved last year, saying:
“I’d seriously think about starting him in every other game” after the first match against Croatia. Mourinho managed Lampard from the age of 25 to 29 and saw him develop from 10 goals a season to 16 before later becoming a 20 goal-a- year midfielder.
Lampard was used in a diamond midfield both behind the strikers and as a natural 8. At a much younger age, Bellingham himself has that knack but also the physicality to be a presence across the field and with ageing midfielders at the club, Chelsea’s interest in Bellingham is unlikely to go away anytime soon.