Jude Bellingham ‘very close’ to being best player in the world after smart decision, says Serbia boss

Jude Bellingham ‘very close’ to being best player in the world after smart decision, says Serbia boss

Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic says that Jude Bellingham's decision to go to Real Madrid was crucial in his drastic rise to become potentially the best player in the world.

The midfielder was the first thing that the Serbian manager even mentioned when he came to speak to media about being drawn with England for the Euro 2024 draw, effusively bringing up the 20-year-old's name unprompted.

"Jude Bellingham, come on!" Stojkovic laughed.

“At the moment he is very close to being the best, and he is going to be the best. He made a good choice to go to Real Madrid to get the Golden Ball [Ballon d’Or] as the best player, only at Real Madrid can he do that.

“The guy is amazing, absolutely fantastic and he’s only 20 years old.

“If England goes to the final and wins the championship he’s going to be the best player of Europe, definitely."

Serbia and England will meet in Gelsenkirchen in Group C's opening game on 16 June, with Stojkovic talking up Gareth Southgate's side as potential champions.

“It’s time, you know,” he added. “Everyone is waiting for England to be the champion, World Cup or European Championships, so now maybe it is time to prove that.

“England are one of the best teams in Europe – England, France, Spain… England is one of the very, very serious candidates to get the trophy. Let’s be honest, it has fantastic potential with a great coach and players and mentality."

As regards his own best player, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Stojkovic was diplomatic when asked about the forward's decision to play in the Saudi Pro League.

Gareth Southgate, Dragan Stojkovic and Kasper Hjulmand (AP)
Gareth Southgate, Dragan Stojkovic and Kasper Hjulmand (AP)

"The level is not the Premier League, it’s not Fulham,” he conceded. “It's a different level but he is already a mature and professional guy, he proved his personality and quality already in the best league in the world.

“So now the level is down regarding the quality of the league. But regarding his mental strength, his thinking about the game when he plays for the national team I don’t have doubt he is going to give 100 percent. He will be ready.

“The good thing is we will have time to spend together to work to try to find some good solutions and it’s going to be different to Qatar because we didn’t have time to do something. Now it’s different, we are happy to be here and play against England."