At times there is an awful lot of noise around this England team, but none of it ever seems to come from the man wearing the No 10 shirt, Jude Bellingham.
It is a long time since the national team had a player quite like him, so precociously talented and so physically and emotionally developed at such a young age. It is worth remembering the Real Madrid player is only 20 years old.
He does not say much, Bellingham. He has a protective family and a quiet and natural caution when it comes to the more unpredictable corners of the bright and shiny world he now inhabits. But as for his football, well, that is being heard all around the world.
It was interesting to observe Bellingham at the start of England’s 3-1 win over Scotland on Tuesday night in Glasgow. Nobody’s chest was pushed out further than his as Scotland’s fans did their best to drown out God Save The King.
Manager Gareth Southgate said later that he noticed it and drew comfort from it.
Jude Bellingham (pictured) was a stand out performer during England’s 3-1 win against Scotland on Tuesday
He enjoyed one of his most impressive performances in an England shirt earning the man of the match award
The 20-year-old (right) continued his fine recent run of scoring form, netting in the first half for England before teeing up Harry Kane for a late goal
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Then at the end, as those same supporters hustled off into the night to contemplate a clear division in class between the teams, Bellingham stood arms outstretched in front of the away section of Hampden Park.
As for the 93 minutes of football that passed in between, they were possibly Bellingham’s finest in an England shirt. He ran the game from start to finish. Blue shirts bounced off him like leaves falling from a speeding train. And all the while the message was clear: everything will be OK. I am here now. I am in control.
And he is. It is uplifting, exhilarating and also slightly nerve-wracking to behold.
The scale and speed of his advancement since Southgate felt he was too callow to blood at the 2020 Euros (held in 2021, of course) has been extraordinary. Suddenly he is England’s best player. He is Real Madrid’s best player. He has become Zinedine Zidane for Real and Bryan Robson for England.
In terms of his football, he is more aligned with the former than the latter. He has Zidane’s ability to make a game thrum to his rhythm. He sees pictures and can paint them, but he also has Robson’s natural ability to inspire and lead, more by what he does than what he says. This is stuff that is not taught.
His contribution against what proved to be a disappointingly modest Scotland team was typical. A goal in the first half and then, as the Scots sought what would have been scandalously ill-deserved parity in the second, an assist for Harry Kane that took the heat out of Hampden and sucked all the optimism out of Glasgow’s early autumn air.
That moment said everything about Bellingham. Big moment, big player. The timing of it was part of its beauty, simply because it slammed the door emphatically in the face of opposition who were sensing opportunity.
The football bit was wonderful too. The strength and balance to turn out of trouble into space, followed by the awareness to see Kane’s run off the back of the central defenders and deliver a perfect pass. These are the moments that define games and can change the direction of a team’s travel.
How Bellingham’s movement hurt the Scots
Jude Bellingham showed his quality on and off the ball for his England goal on Tuesday night. He played a neat backheel to Phil Foden then made a curved run towards the penalty spot that no Scotland defender tracked.
Harry Kane won the ball at the back post from Foden’s cross before Andy Robertson inadvertently steered it to an unmarked Bellingham, who slotted it home.
Next summer in Germany, England will be fancied as they head into their fourth major tournament under Southgate. The manager now has a genuinely world-class player around whom he can build his attacking ideas.
Bellingham first made his mark in Germany with Borussia Dortmund. Liverpool sought to bring him to the Premier League but he preferred Madrid. So there is a feeling among a large section of our football community that we don’t really know him. That is unlikely to be a feeling that pervades for long.
On Tuesday, Bellingham spoke to Channel 4 after the game and was then hustled through the general interview area with his head down. It is always the way and Southgate — who played in the era of Paul Gascoigne — will not mind that much.
As for Southgate’s dealings with the media, barely a conversation takes place now without Bellingham’s name being front and centre, and it was no different on Tuesday night.
As the baggage — literal and metaphorical — of another England international break was loaded on to a bus behind him, Southgate said: ‘He’s still somebody we’re talking to a lot, trying to help him with his game, because he’s still got areas to improve.
‘But tonight he was terrific. The biggest thing for me is his personality. We knew our anthem would be booed and we talked to the players about taking energy from that.
‘But I’m looking at him stood in the line and I know what’s coming. That’s the sort of thing that makes the difference, the mentality of the player.
Bellingham has been likened with some of the greatest midfielders to have graced the game including Bryan Robson (left) and Zinedine Zidane (right)
Southgate (left) lauded his midfielder after the match, claiming that Bellingham has ‘definitely got leadership qualities’
Bellingham (right) has also been in flying form for Real Madrid having scored five in his last four matches for the LaLiga giants
‘He’s definitely got leadership qualities. The great thing in this group is that our senior players are such good leaders and Jude is bright enough to attach himself to those sorts of characters.
‘The people you mix with, the people you hang around with in life, are probably a good indicator of where you’re going to end up. He’s really savvy at that.
‘His whole life, and how his family have looked after him, has given him a great start, but there’s still a lot to go.’
It wouldn’t be Southgate if there was not a note of caution and he is right to attach one. Equally, the England manager knows what a generational talent he has on his hands. He knows exactly what he is and so, just as crucially, does Bellingham.
England’s new young hope does not lack self-awareness. In football, modesty only takes you so far.