Jude Bellingham: From Local Heroes to Zidane, A Footballing Journey

Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham recently shared his footballing journey, from idolizing local Birmingham City heroes to being inspired by legends like Zinedine Zidane. In an interview with L’Equipe after receiving the Kopa Award for the best young player in Europe, Bellingham revealed his earliest idols were the midfield trio of Seb Larsson, Craig Gardner, and Lee Bowyer, instrumental in Birmingham City’s last major trophy win in 2011.

He said, “My heroes were Seb Larsson, Craig Gardner, and Lee Bowyer. As I got more into it, my dad became the most important influence. Later, my first models were Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard simply because they played in England. Then, when you grow up, you start watching football.”

Bellingham’s introduction to Zidane came through his father, who had a Zidane shirt and recommended him to watch the legendary Frenchman on YouTube. Zidane became Bellingham’s ultimate footballing role model.

“Zidane was the player I wanted to be. I was lucky enough to meet him during the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool in 2022. I was like a kid, wide-eyed. It’s so humbling for someone who has achieved so much. He gave off a great presence. And, according to the guys who played with him here, he was a great coach. That is just as important.”

At Real Madrid, Bellingham requested and received Zidane’s old number five shirt, aiming to pay tribute while also shaping it into his own unique legacy.

“It’s a kind of tribute, of course. But, at the same time, I want to follow my own path and make this number what I want it to be: Madrid’s modern number 5.”

Back at Birmingham City, Bellingham’s number 22 shirt has been retired, signifying his impact on the club. He understands and respects the decision, acknowledging that his transfer to Dortmund helped save the club during a challenging financial period.

Bellingham’s playing style has drawn comparisons to Zidane, as both are imposing physical players with exceptional technical control. However, Bellingham enjoys the unique privilege of being the central figure in Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid, unlike Zidane, who played on the left of the midfield during the Galactico era.

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