Jude Bellingham: The Rising Star Balancing Expectations and Workload
Jude Bellingham, the midfielder from Real Madrid, has seamlessly adapted to La Liga, making his transition look remarkably effortless. His recent outstanding performance against Scotland has reinforced the belief that he could be the driving force behind England's potential victory in Euro 2024.
Bellingham, who has received heaps of praise from pundits in recent seasons, has truly emerged as a world-class talent with a promising future. However, there's an important caveat that Real Madrid's manager, Carlo Ancelotti, and England's head coach, Gareth Southgate, are keenly aware of: Bellingham is only 20 years old and has already logged a substantial number of minutes at the top level of football.
The relentless demands of modern football, both physically and mentally, are unlikely to decrease anytime soon. Therefore, Bellingham will need careful management to sustain his extraordinary trajectory.
Bellingham made his senior debut for Birmingham City at the tender age of 16 and went on to become a key figure in Borussia Dortmund's squad, amassing 132 appearances in just three seasons. He earned his first cap for the England senior team in 2020 at the age of 17, becoming the third-youngest senior international for England. With 26 caps to his name already, many predict that he will be a pivotal component of the national midfield for the next decade.
His impressive start at Real Madrid, marked by five goals in his first four appearances, has solidified his position as one of the first names on Ancelotti's team sheet. Ancelotti, the experienced Italian manager, has even lauded Bellingham as the 'complete midfielder,' despite his youthful age.
Assuming he remains injury-free, Bellingham is set for a demanding season ahead. FIFPRO, the world players' union, has cautioned that he could be susceptible to burnout if not managed carefully. In a report published in June, it was revealed that Bellingham had already accumulated nearly 15,000 minutes in competitive senior matches before turning 20 this year. This is significantly more than football legends like Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, and Steven Gerrard had amassed at the same stage of their illustrious careers. For instance, Rooney had 10,989 minutes, Lampard had 3,477, and David Beckham hadn't even reached 1,000 senior minutes before their respective 20th birthdays.
The FIFPRO report emphasized the potential risks of early over-exposure, including mental burnout and a shorter career due to injuries and wear and tear. It stressed the importance of clubs and national teams taking a balanced approach when managing the workloads of young players.
Southgate, however, remains confident that Bellingham will have ample time to recharge before Euro 2024. He believes that Bellingham's maturity and the support networks around him will contribute to his longevity.
"I'm not sure I've come across a player whose burnt out," Southgate remarked regarding concerns about Bellingham's workload for both club and country. "There might be different reasons for players not fulfilling their potential. I think his whole life and how his family have looked after him have given him a great start but there's still a lot to go."