Real Madrid has turned Bellingham into England’s Zidane

At the 1998 World Cup, France triumphed thanks to the brilliance of Zinedine Zidane, and now England hopes Jude Bellingham will soon become “Zidane 2.0”. When Bellingham moved to Real Madrid last summer, he was handed the number 5 jersey. It was the best number available after Real Madrid loaned defender Jesús Vallejo to Granada, with other desirable numbers like 7, 8, and 10 already taken by established players.

Bellingham déjà comparé à Zidane ! | Français

For Bellingham, this represented progress as the number 5 jersey is sleeker compared to the number 22 he wore at Dortmund.

Both Bellingham and Zidane wore the number 5 at Real Madrid, but played as “number 10s” for their national teams. At Real Madrid, the number 5 jersey has been worn by illustrious players, notably Zidane. Like Bellingham, when Zidane arrived at Bernabeu at the turn of the century, the number 10 jersey was already occupied by Luis Figo. At that time, the Portuguese star preferred number 7, but that number belonged to club icon Raul Gonzalez.

Real Madrid: Ancelotti biến Bellingham thành Zidane

To avoid unnecessary controversy, Zidane opted for the number 5 jersey left behind by the retiring Manolo Sanchis. Ultimately, greatness isn’t determined by the number on the jersey, but by the player who wears it.

At the start of the season, few believed Bellingham could become the “new Zidane” for Real Madrid, but the English midfielder made remarkable strides. Zidane, in his debut season, only scored 12 goals for Real Madrid, with his most memorable being the goal against Leverkusen in the Champions League final.

In contrast, Bellingham scored 23 goals in his debut season at Bernabeu. Notably, the English midfielder achieved success in La Liga and the Champions League—feats that took Zidane four seasons to accomplish at Real Madrid.

However, their similarity lies not in the titles won at Real Madrid, but in their role as “number 10s” despite wearing the number 5 jersey. For Zidane, playing as a “number 10” at Real was natural, mirroring his role with the French national team. But for Bellingham, playing as a “number 10” at Real Madrid was an innovation introduced by coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Bellingham's fifth goal in four games seals Real Madrid comeback over  Getafe - The San Diego Union-Tribune

When Bellingham arrived at Bernabeu, he was considered a box-to-box midfielder, often deployed deeper on the left wing for both Dortmund and England. Ancelotti recognized Bellingham’s goal-scoring prowess, as the 2003-born midfielder knew how to appear at the right place and time to score.

Due to Ancelotti’s tactical adjustments in the absence of a striker last season, with Karim Benzema departed and Kylian Mbappe not yet arrived, the Italian coach utilized Bellingham’s talents. Transitioning from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 or even a 4-3-1-2 formation, Bellingham was positioned as the highest midfielder.

In this role, Bellingham had more freedom in the attacking third, collaborating extensively with Real Madrid’s wingers Vinicius and Rodrygo.

Zidane cua nuoc Anh,   anh 1

Real Madrid’s adjustment to accommodate Bellingham’s genius benefited the English national team as well. In his first four matches with Real, Bellingham scored five goals. His shining performances in the number 5 jersey impressed England manager Gareth Southgate, who promptly visited Madrid to witness his young protege’s exploits.

Southgate gleaned insights from Ancelotti’s use of Bellingham to make corresponding adjustments for the young star in the national team setup.

In the 3-1 victory over Scotland last September, Bellingham dazzled in his first appearance as a “number 10”, scoring one goal and assisting Harry Kane’s goal. Since then, Bellingham has consistently played as an attacking midfielder in the subsequent five matches for England.

His goal against Serbia in the opening match of Group C in the Euro 2024 qualifiers on June 17th was a testament to his prowess. Bellingham, wearing the Real Madrid jersey, naturally found himself in the penalty box to head in a goal—a feat even seasoned striker Harry Kane couldn’t replicate at that moment.

From Ancelotti’s innovation, it’s clear that Bellingham has shed his traditional central midfield role to excel in direct goal-scoring involvement.

The numbers speak for themselves: in Bellingham’s first 16 appearances for the England national team, the 2003-born star contributed only 1 goal and 1 assist. Yet since joining Real Madrid under Ancelotti’s tutelage, Bellingham has delivered 3 goals and 2 assists in his recent 6 matches for the Three Lions.

This evolution has been rapid but perfectly aligned with Bellingham’s newfound effectiveness. In 42 outings wearing the number 5 jersey for Real Madrid this season, Bellingham has been directly involved in 36 goals, scoring 23 times and providing 13 assists—surpassing his combined contributions over 3 seasons at Dortmund.

More importantly, since joining Real Madrid, Bellingham has absorbed the DNA of champions. Never before has the 20-year-old midfielder looked as comfortable in the white of England as he has after donning the pristine white of Real Madrid. This could make him a key figure in helping the Three Lions pursue their first EURO championship dream, akin to what Zidane achieved for France 26 years ago.