Jude Bellingham plays like five former England captains rolled into one

Jude Bellingham leaves Dusan Tadic on the floor
Jude Bellingham was imperious against Serbia - Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

Jude Bellingham was England’s match-winner against Serbia, a player who continues to defy both his age and fashionable modes of midfield categorisation.

The 20-year-old was his team’s most influential player in Gelsenkirchen, particularly in a first half in which he distributed from deep, broke up Serbia attacks and scored the only goal of the game.

England’s No 10 role was the subject of much discussion in the weeks leading up to Euro 2024, and Bellingham’s performance demonstrated how the position is no longer a home for luxury players.

In the early stages of the match, it often seemed as if Bellingham was everywhere but the central attacking midfield position we associate with the No 10 shirt; pulling wide, running beyond and helping out his defence when required.

These are the five best facets of Bellingham’s display, as well as the England captains they called to mind.


Reminds you of: Steven Gerrard
One moment of Bellingham’s first half was soon shared on social media to much fanfare: a hip-high volleyed pass to Kyle Walker. Bellingham finished the match completing 67 of 70 attempted passes, including 24 passes into the final third. His in-possession contributions will buoy England fans, given he has thrived at Real Madrid in a more advanced, roving forward role. Spraying passes may not be Bellingham’s primary strength, but he is no dummy when receiving the ball in deeper areas.

Jude Bellingham slide tackles against Serbia
Bellingham did plenty of gritty defensive work against Serbia - News Pool


Reminds you of: Bryan Robson
Bellingham won nine duels and three tackles against Serbia, including a couple of eye-catching sliding challenges in the first 45 minutes. Given the degree of midfield rotation from Gareth Southgate’s team, something which will please England supporters, Bellingham was required to be diligent defensively in certain phases. Some midfielders interpret the phrase ‘box-to-box’ in a lop-sided way, but Bellingham was not afraid to do the ugly side of the job. This will be required later in the tournament, should England make it.


Reminds you of: Alan Shearer
Bellingham attacked Bukayo Saka’s cross like a centre-forward, displaying a desire to score goals that is sometimes scarce in the modern midfielder. Robson would also have been an apt comparison in this category, the player who scored England’s first goal at the 1982 World Cup after 27 seconds. Only two players scored more La Liga goals than Bellingham last season, and England possess the Bundesliga’s top scorer in Harry Kane. Goals matter, it turns out.

Jude Bellingham of England scores his team's first goal from a header whilst under pressure from Andrija Zivkovic of Serbia
Bellingham flung himself into a position in which he could have been hurt in order to score England's winning goal - Getty Images/Matthias Hangst


Reminds you of: Wayne Rooney
Two decades ago, an 18-year-old Rooney had French players looking at each other in shock at the European Championship. Like Rooney, Bellingham is no respecter of reputation and nor should he be with La Liga and Champions League medals in his back pocket. One moment in the first half, when he chest-bumped Serbia’s Filip Kostic, suggested Bellingham would be as useful down the tunnel as he is on the pitch should aggravation strike. That said, there is no sign of Bellingham suffering from the kind of impetuous reaction that has cost England at previous tournaments.


Reminds you of: David Beckham
Some feared a year in Spain would turn our Jude into a canny manipulator of referees, and how right they were. Much like Beckham, Bellingham has a clever knack of getting his body between man and ball before slowing down and hitting the turf. It is a trait shared by Bellingham’s England skipper Kane. How much one respects these tactics is a matter of personal taste, but England have been sent packing by teams who mastered them. As Southgate’s team negotiated an awkward final 20 minutes, winning free-kicks proved a valuable commodity.