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Jude Bellingham's 'striking' relationship with ex-Liverpool star proves he's one who got away

Jude Bellingham of England signs autographs for fans as the England team depart St George's Park ahead of their Euro 2024 campaign, at St George's Park on June 10, 2024 in Burton upon Trent, England.
-Credit: (Image: Morgan Harlow - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)


Liverpool thankfully didn't spend too long pining for Jude Bellingham last season when it seemed inevitable he'd leave Borussia Dortmund. That's credit to the campaign Jurgen Klopp and the players managed to string together, winning silverware and competing for the top prizes despite missing out on the generational talent.

But as the years stretch on, we can expect the sense that he's the one who got away to grow. Rarely does Liverpool come so close to signing talents who are already so exceptional — stars tend to be made at Anfield, not bought.

In truth, barring any major setback, it's already obvious that Bellingham will be at the very top of the game for the next decade. Liverpool has players within the ranks who could ascend to similar levels; Alexis Mac Allister is one, and Harvey Elliott may even be another. But replacing Jordan Henderson with the Borussia Dortmund man would have instantly set the Reds up for years to come, even in light of Klopp's departure.

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At Real Madrid, Bellingham has played in a more advanced position, at times akin to a false nine. Had he arrived at Liverpool, he would have been destined to be the jewel in the midfield rebuild, taking over from Henderson in the same kind of box-to-box role in which he operated in the Bundesliga.

That would have seen him inherit the position from a player he hugely admires. Writing for the Times, Adam Lallana commented on Henderson's exclusion from this summer's England Euro 2024 squad, noting the effect it could have on Bellingham.

"I was most surprised at Jordan Henderson’s exclusion," mused Lallana, a former Liverpool player himself. "Yes, he is my best mate in football so I know people will accuse me of being biased, but having witnessed Jordan’s influence in a squad, I know he will be missed.

"For example, Trent is someone who confides in Jordan, and Jude is extremely close to him. He almost sees him as a mentor. During my time as a coach with England Under-21 last season, I would regularly meet Jordan for a coffee and a catch-up at St George’s Park. Jude would always be with him. Their relationship was quite striking to see."

Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham and James Maddison of England during a training session at St George's Park on March 20, 2024 in Burton upon Trent, England.
Jude Bellingham and Jordan Henderson developed a 'striking' relationship at England level, claims Adam Lallana. -Credit:Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

This relationship being so 'striking' proves more than ever that Liverpool may have had a legitimate shot at tempting Bellingham to the club. He's also close with Trent Alexander-Arnold on international duty, and the Reds had some very senior players in positions to talk up the benefits of a move to Anfield.

Of course, Henderson would go on to leave for Saudi Arabia, so Liverpool might not have reaped the advantages of this 'mentor' relationship at club level. But who knows? Perhaps the captain would have been tempted to stay another season, with Klopp's midfield overhaul becoming a more gradual passing of the torch.

Had he done that, Henderson may also now find himself in the England squad for the Euros. But amid the ifs, buts and maybes, the one thing we know for sure is that Liverpool missed out on an incredible talent in Bellingham, whose relationship with the former club captain ultimately went to waste from an Anfield perspective.

Liverpool.com says: Obviously, there's much more that goes into transfers than doing what your friends tell you. Henderson and Alexander-Arnold could have put on the world's greatest charm offensive, and the bottom line of the Real Madrid offer might still have proved decisive.

But at the same time, footballers are people, and relationships within the game are hugely important. At one time, Liverpool clearly felt it had a chance to get Bellingham, and these latest revelations only further the impression that Henderson might have been able to help seal the deal.