Jude Bellingham during the UEFA Champions League match between Real Madrid and Union Berlin at Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, September 2023.

Forget Messi & Ronaldo, Jude Bellingham is redefining ‘clutch’ in his own image

Drawing 0-0 with Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, Union Berlin were seconds away from one of the most famous results in their history until Jude Bellingham stamped all over the romantic narrative.

The Bundesliga club were making their Champions League debut on a warm evening in Madrid, with thousands jetting over to the Spanish capital to watch their plucky side take on European football’s premier aristocrats.

And they held their own for the vast majority of the match. Until Bellingham blew out the candles on their celebration cake with the inevitability of the British government backtracking on its climate pledges.

Federico Valverde unleashed a howitzer that pinged around the penalty area with the unpredictability of an intoxicated teenager attempting to walk in a straight line.

Two Union Berlin bodies flung themselves in harm’s way to protect their precious point, but Madrid’s big bad wolf was lurking in exactly the right spot to break hearts.

Swinging himself around, the 20-year-old England midfielder blasted the ball into the empty net and wheeled away with delight. His Champions League debut for Real Madrid had ended with himself as the storybook hero once again.

The devasted Union players slumped downwards, with the air escaping their bodies and leaving 11 athletes looking like withered skeletons. Perhaps they were foolish for starting to dream when Bellingham was on the scene. He is inevitable. Accept your fate.

Earlier this week, Rio Ferdinand claimed that Bellingham has the ability and mentality required to win the Ballon d’Or in the future, adding that the Real Madrid star is already ahead of fellow England midfield legends at the same age.

Ferdinand suggested both Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney would have an argument to say Bellingham was not the best English talent at the same age.

But he argued that Bellingham was ahead of his former Man United team-mate Paul Scholes as a 20-year-old, as well as fellow Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

“He is going to be pitted against people like Gerrard, Lampard, Scholes, and I would say right now, comfortably, that none of those players were doing anything like what he’s doing at this age and that’s the yardstick,” Ferdinand said.

“So he can go on and win Ballon d’Ors. I’ll be very surprised if this kid doesn’t finish his career with at least one, maybe two or three Ballon d’Ors, because I think he’s that good.

“There’s been players who stand out ability-wise maybe the same or a bit more than him and you could argue the case either way.

“But I don’t think there’s been, which I think is the most important part of it, that one that has come out with the mentality that this kid has to do what’s he’s doing.

“To go to Real Madrid and be the best players in his first four or five games is phenomenal, unheard of.”

The best players are able to bend matches to their will, never submitting themselves to someone else’s narrative and bending time to their own will.

Bellingham is already there and he only celebrated his 20th birthday in June. Crikey.

By Michael Lee

READ NEXT: The 6 Brits to play for Real Madrid before Jude Bellingham & how they fared

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every player Real Madrid have signed from the PL?