Manchester United must include a loan return to Birmingham in any deal for Jude Bellingham, says Blues legend Trevor Francis, with the 16-year-old needing regular game time at this stage of his career.
It has been suggested that the Red Devils will seek to buy into the midfielder’s obvious potential when the next transfer window opens. They are not the only ones to be monitoring Bellingham’s development, with Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea also in the mix, but are reported to be leading the chase.
Francis is not surprised to see interest building in the hot prospect, with it likely that he will be prised away from St Andrew’s at some point soon by a European heavyweight.
The former Birmingham striker is, however, keen to see those showing long-term vision when it comes to recruitment agree to let a talented youngster further his development in the West Midlands, rather than find himself stuck on the bench or in back in youth ranks.
Ex-England international Francis told the Birmingham Mail: “Wherever Jude Bellingham goes I think he should have it written in the contract that he immediately goes back to Birmingham City to play as a loan player because he has got to improve and the only way he is going to improve is by playing regularly.
“To go to Manchester United or Chelsea or wherever it may be, with respect to the lad he is not going to be a regular in the first team and he needs to be playing regular first team football to improve as a footballer.”
Francis, who became the first £1 million footballer in Britain when leaving Birmingham for Nottingham Forest in 1979, expects Bellingham to follow his lead and reach the very top.
The ex-Blues player and coach added, as he echoed one of his legendary former bosses: “I think he is a very talented young man; I sound like Brian Clough saying that don’t I?
“For his age he has shown a lot of maturity when I have watched him. I think he is blessed with great individual talent.
“I am not exactly sure at this moment what his best position is but then again I think his manager would probably say exactly the same, but he is just a natural footballer who I think is capable of playing in any kind of position.”
Bellingham has broken through as an all-action midfielder, with his early displays showing that he is prepared to get stuck in while also providing a useful goal threat from a deep-lying role.