Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid: 'Weird' date with destiny awaits Jude Bellingham as Harry Kane suffers again

Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid: 'Weird' date with destiny awaits Jude Bellingham as Harry Kane suffers again

As Jude Bellingham jigged around the Bernabeu pitch, embracing his Real Madrid team-mates and milking the crowd, it was easy to wonder if the England midfielder’s career arc is simply too perfect to be true.

Bellingham is not 21 until June but, in his first season at Madrid, he has already won LaLiga and is now preparing for a Champions League Final — at Wembley and against his former club, Borussia Dortmund.

If last night’s incredible late win over Bayern Munich belonged to Joselu, the 34-year-old journeyman who came off the bench to score in the 88th and 91st minutes, what odds on the final being Bellingham’s? His storyline will surely be the most compelling on June 1.

“At Wembley, against Dortmund, it’s a weird one, I can’t believe it. When I was seven, in Birmingham, I was dreaming of nights like this,” he said afterwards.

Madrid will be huge favourites to win a 15th European Cup and a sixth in 11 years — and Bellingham appears born for this club and these occasions.

In another indicator of his character and seeming immunity from pressure, he revealed he felt no nerves before last night’s decider.

“Not really, I really wish I could say I did! In the changing room I was looking around and I just thought, ‘I couldn’t be in a better position with better people’,” he said.

Bellingham now has the chance to finish the campaign by lifting the Champions League trophy at England’s national stadium and potentially a European Championship in the summer, and a remarkable double would feel entirely in keeping with his extraordinary progress to date.

He is already in contention for the Ballon d’Or after a goal-laden season, and winning one or both prizes with club and country would make him a potentially irresistible choice.

In cruel contrast, Harry Kane’s narrative continues to be coloured by heroic disappointments. There will be no emotional Wembley occasion for the England captain, as Kane and Eric Dier were on the receiving end of their own semi-final suckerpunch on the fifth anniversary of Tottenham’s unforgettable win over Ajax in 2019.

It means Kane will finish his first season at Bayern still trophyless, despite the Bavarians appearing among the safest bets in Europe to win silverware when he joined them from Spurs in the summer.

Thomas Tuchel’s decision to substitute Kane, along with Jamal Musiala, in the 85th minute will go down as one the great mistakes in the modern history of this competition.

When Tuchel hooked Kane for Eric Choupo-Moting — who, in an odd twist, replaced Joselu in the Stoke squad in 2017 — Bayern were leading 1-0 through Alphonso Davies’s brilliant strike and on course to pull off the kind of smash-and-grab which Madrid have made their speciality in this competition.

Within moments of the changes, though, Joselu pounced when Manuel Neuer, excellent until that point, spilled Vinicius Jr’s hopeful shot and the former Potters and Newcastle forward swept home. He added a second in the first minute of stoppage-time, converting Antonio Rudiger’s cross from close range.

“A forlorn Kane was left to rue another opportunity missed and another season without a club trophy.”

Tuchel claimed Kane “couldn’t keep going” due to “back pain”, but the 30-year-old is among the most durable players in the world and would surely have wanted to battle through the final minutes.

Perhaps Madrid are an unstoppable force whatever the state of the opposition, but Kane’s departure robbed Bayern of their focal point, a player as effective at holding up the ball and defending his own goal as he is at scoring. The psychological impact of his absence might have been telling, too, further energising Madrid and depleting Bayern.

Tuchel afterwards preferred to focus on other mistakes, saying the defeat could be explained by Neuer’s uncharacteristic error and a rogue flag from the linesman in the 103rd minute.

The Bundesliga runners-up could certainly feel aggrieved after Matthijs de Ligt’s last-ditch equaliser was ruled out for a contentious offside against Noussair Mazraoui, a fractional call which should surely have been left to the VAR.

As he acknowledged the Bayern fans up in the Gods at the revamped Bernabeu, a forlorn Kane was left to rue another opportunity missed and another season without a club trophy.

Bellingham, though, can begin to prepare for a crowning moment of his short career against Dortmund, the club which helped to make him.