"I want to continue to push the boundaries of my own potential and talent," the Dortmund and England midfielder tells UEFA.com as he returns to the UEFA Champions League.
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At 19, Jude Bellingham is in the unusual situation of being one of the most talked-about players in English football despite playing his club games in Germany with Borussia Dortmund.
Just 16 when he broke into the first team at Birmingham City, the midfielder made a high-profile move to the Bundesliga aged 17, in July 2020, and has not looked back, making over 100 first-team appearances and even captaining the team in the absence of Marco Reus and Mats Hummels this season. The 19-year-old talked to UEFA.com about his extraordinary journey so far.
On playing football with his younger brother Jobe
We had a patch of grass outside the house that we'd always go and play on. We'd be out there from the morning until night, especially in the summer, when we didn't have school, and they would always end with us two as best mates or the worst enemies ever, really. The amount of times we came in with tears streaming down our faces are countless.
Every game we played, we always said it was the Champions League final. We'd make up teams and make up stadiums that we'd play in. We must have played about 1,000 Champions League finals on that little patch of grass, so that was always the goal: to play at the highest level in the Champions League. I'm doing it, and I'm sure Jobe [Bellingham] is going to get the chance to one day.
On making his breakthrough at Birmingham aged 16
I still felt I was a little bit off it physically. I was always in meetings where people were telling me how good I was, to be honest, and I never really wanted to believe it. I was always really harsh on myself, and I think that's probably why people had to try to keep me positive.
I remember my league debut, the day before I was like… I'd done well in the training session and got in the squad, but you're still not really expecting to play. And I'll never forget Jeff[erson] Montero pulled his hamstring or quad, and then he was like: "Are you ready?" And I was like: "Well, I’m going to have to be, aren't I?" I scored and kind of carried on my momentum in the team until now.
On his decision to move to Dortmund
It was just the track record of the club with the young players. Obviously, I'd had a lot more time to actually make my decision because I had lockdown. It was tough because I knew I had a really big decision coming up and I had a lot of time to make it, and often, that's the worst and the best [thing].
The Bundesliga started a few weeks earlier than the [English] Championship and I got to see what the team looked like. When I watched the team, I felt like there were places I could really improve Dortmund and where Dortmund could really improve me. And the more I watched the team, I thought: "Yeah, I've got a chance here."
On captaining Dortmund at the age of 19
As soon as I got out for the warm-up and got a feel for the ball and the crowd, it was like any other game. The aim is always to win the game and I didn't really think too much about [having] the armband on.
The coach [Edin Terzić] always says to me – and he's said to me since, in the games where Mats [Hummels] has returned and taken the armband back – "You don't need an armband to be a leader," and I've always felt that I can lead the team without having the armband. The biggest part of leadership is that you lead by example with your performance first and foremost.
On staying grounded
People are always saying to me how mature I am, and I don't really see it personally. When I'm in interviews and stuff, you see the side of me that's really focused on the question that you're asking me; but at home, I'm like any normal kid – I want to have conversations, I want to have a laugh, I want to mess around a little bit.
I'm still 19, [and] I've won maybe one trophy in my career, and it's not enough, really. I want to win way more, and I want to continue to push the boundaries of my own potential and talent.