Talking back at the referee is an unlikely quality to praise in a young player, but when Declan Rice saw Jude Bellingham mouthing at the officials it was a further sign that his England team-mate is ready to play at the very highest level for the next 15 years.
Rice is hoping he will be alongside his 19-year-old team-mate for most of those years. He has never seen such prodigious talent in a teenager and his maturity has offered hope for the World Cup during a run of six matches without a victory.
Against Germany this week Bellingham drove his older team-mates forward, helped by working in tandem with Rice, to spark the thrilling comeback in the final match before heading to Qatar.
“Even little things, as a 19 year-old you're scared to talk to the referee but he's in the referee's face demanding answers, demanding decisions and he leaves himself on the pitch constantly,” said Rice.
“He's 19 but he's got the body of a 28-year-old, he's a man. He thinks like a man, plays like a man and shows personality and character. You can see it when he plays for Dortmund, how he get around the pitch. He's the future of English football to come for the next 15 years if he wants to be.”
Rice was slightly older at 20 when he made his international debut and is a relatively senior player now three years on. Bellingham has made the majority of his caps as a substitute but the matches against Italy and Germany offered the chance to forge a partnership with Rice, one the West Ham midfielder hope can be in place for World Cups beyond Qatar.
“I hope so. We've got so many good players, younger players even coming through now, current players in the squad that aren't here,” he said.
“Every place is up for grabs but every time I play with Jude we're building that connection and I say to him 'you go and bomb on and do your attacking stuff and I'll sit here and defend for you'. So we're getting that good connection, he's great to play with.
“Top lad as well, really pushes you on the pitch. We push each other on and it's a privilege to play next to him. I don't think I've seen anyone as good as he is for 19. I look at a lot of 19 year-olds, whether it's at a club, around the world, around the country, to have the whole package it's a hard thing to have and I feel like he's got that.”
Bellingham has attracted interest from Liverpool in bringing him back to England from Borussia Dortmund after his breakthrough in senior football in Bundesliga. Real Madrid were also linked with him through Spanish newspapers, who have also seen how the teenager could make an impact at the highest level.
Rice says his best role is yet to be defined at England, adding: “He can play in a holding role, he can play as an eight, he can play as 10. He can play anywhere in midfield and I know he's going to be crucial for us.”