Trent Alexander-Arnold Real Madrid concerns obvious but Jude Bellingham role in Liverpool move clear

Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold and Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham board the plane as the England team travel to Germany ahead of their Euro 2024 campaign
-Credit: (Image: Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

For Liverpool supporters, it was previously an image that offered a tantalising glimpse of a possible exciting future. Now, though, every sighting is greeted with a growing sense of dread.

The close friendship between Reds defender Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jude Bellingham, forged during their time together with England, was viewed as good reason for the latter to make a move to Anfield from Borussia Dortmund last year.

That it didn't transpire highlights not every such relationship can sway transfer dealings. But that hasn't stopped Liverpool fans having a certain sense of unease at the duo once again being snapped regularly together while with the Three Lions ahead of the European Championships in Germany.

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Context, as ever, is important. While Bellingham commanded a mammoth fee when leaving Dortmund - partly explaining why Liverpool walked away early in their pursuit - Alexander-Arnold is entering the final 12 months of his current deal at Anfield and, as things stand, will be able to depart for nothing next summer.

And that has prompted rumours of interest from Real Madrid and sparked fears among the Liverpool fanbase the right-back could follow in the footsteps of Steve McManaman and leave for the Bernabeu without any transfer fee.

The overhaul among the corridors of power at both Liverpool and owners Fenway Sports Group in recent weeks have meant contract talks with all players - Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah are also due to become free agents next summer - have been placed on hold, with ongoing international commitments also a distraction.

But persuading Alexander-Arnold to extend his Anfield career is a priority with the homegrown 25-year-old, elevated to vice-captain by Jurgen Klopp last summer, seen as the long-term successor to present skipper Van Dijk. He is also one of the most valuable players in the Liverpool squad.

There is, however, a way in which Bellingham can unwittingly help persuade that Alexander-Arnold's future remains at Liverpool - and in a new position.

The Reds man is being heavily touted to start England's Euro 2024 group opener against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday evening in midfield alongside both Bellingham and Declan Rice. Alexander-Arnold's performance when starting in the engine room in the 3-0 friendly win over Bosnia and Herzegovina last week, and his subsequent lively late cameo from the bench in the loss to Iceland four days later, has seemingly edged him ahead of Chelsea captain Conor Gallagher.

With England expected to enjoy plentiful possession against the Serbs - who qualified behind Hungary in their group - England head coach Gareth Southgate is said to prefer the more creative qualities of Alexander-Arnold, with Rice operating as the more withdrawn of the two defensive midfielders and Bellingham the most advanced.

And how the Liverpool man fares will surely be of significant interest to new Reds head coach Arne Slot, who regularly employed the similar 4-2-3-1 formation during his successful stint in charge of Feyenoord.

Having a double pivot rather than a solitary number six could benefit Alexander-Arnold should he replicate at club level the transition he has made into the engine room with his country. Indeed, having only ever started one game for Liverpool in the engine room, he is now poised to begin his seventh game for England in the position.

Alexander-Arnold has, of course, regularly popped up in central areas for the Reds over the last 14 months having been transformed into an inverted right-back. And in the League Cup quarter-final win over West Ham United in December, he came off the bench in the second half into a midfield role and swiftly provided two assists.

Seeing Alexander-Arnold alongside Bellingham on Sunday, then, shouldn't be treated with trepidation by Reds fans. It might well be a sign of the long-term future for the Liverpool man - at Anfield.