Newcomer Bellingham Madrid's driving force in La Liga conquest

Bellingham was decisive in all of <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Real Madrid;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Real Madrid</a>'s wins over <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Girona;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Girona</a> and <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Barcelona;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Barcelona</a> in La Liga this season on the way to the title (Pierre-Philippe MARCOU)

Jude Bellingham came, saw and conquered Spain in his first season with Real Madrid, with the English midfielder becoming the key figure in the club's La Liga triumph.

Madrid had only won three of the last 11 Spanish titles but Bellingham's goals helped them whisk away the crown from rivals Barcelona with four games to spare.

When Los Blancos agreed the 103-million-euro ($110 million) deal with Borussia Dortmund for the midfielder he was only 19, and opponents could be forgiven for underestimating him.

Even coach Carlo Ancelotti did, in some ways.

Bellingham was the Bundesliga player of the season and an undoubted talent, but nobody anticipated such a successful start to life in Spain, or him becoming such a potent threat in the final third.

Ancelotti, who noted the potential for Bellingham to cause havoc in attacking areas and deployed him as part of Madrid's frontline, later admitted his surprise at Bellingham's goalscoring exploits -– he is the team's top scorer in La Liga with 18 goals.

Bellingham netted only 16 goals across four league campaigns prior with Birmingham and Borussia Dortmund.

He showed impeccable cool before the world's media at his presentation last June, demonstrating he already knew how to get fans onside, something with which Welsh winger Gareth Bale struggled.

Bellingham chose the number five shirt in homage to former Madrid great Zinedine Zidane, whom he has drawn comparisons to for his technical ability.

"It's not the case that other teams are bad, it's just that Real Madrid are the greatest," said Bellingham, and he has helped expand that legend by driving Los Blancos to a record-extending 36th La Liga title.

Bellingham became the first English player to score for Real Madrid since David Beckham in 2007 on his debut at Athletic Bilbao.

He scored two and set up another in Madrid's following game at Almeria, grabbed the winner at Celta Vigo the week after and then repeated the trick in his first home appearance against Getafe.

Madrid opened their renovated Santiago Bernabeu and played with the newly installed roof closed -– Bellingham nearly blew it off with his 95th-minute winner sealing a 2-1 comeback victory.

The England international opened his arms wide in celebration, one that has become his own, with a necessary hint of arrogance to show he deserves the adulation beaming back at him.

Madrid fans serenaded him with the famous Beatles track bearing his name. "When they were singing 'Hey Jude' I got goosebumps," said Bellingham, humble when he speaks.

"I don't know what I have done to deserve it, I'm just so grateful."

It turns out it was a down-payment on the league title and a deep run in the Champions League, where record winners Madrid are chasing their 15th crown.

"It plays with your heart but I love the comebacks," added Bellingham, proving he is made from the material Madrid adores.

For much of the season, Catalan minnows Girona were Madrid's closest title rivals and Bellingham helped deliver a statement victory at Montilivi when the sides met in late September.

The 20-year-old's sublime cross helped Madrid take the lead through Joselu and he wrapped up a 3-0 victory to take his team top. They have not looked back since.

Nor has Bellingham, who delivered a brace in his first Clasico to help Madrid claim a vital victory.

- 'Smarter than others' -

His first against Barcelona was brilliant, thrashing home from distance, but he did not celebrate in his usual fashion -- he knew more was to follow.

Bellingham drove Madrid on and volleyed home the winner in the 92nd minute to leave the champions four points off the pace, a gap that would widen.

"I've just phoned home," Bellingham said afterwards. "There was a bit of emotion thinking about all the times I watched this game on the sofa... it was my turn to experience it, to make an impression."

Although Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo were out of form, he kept scoring and Madrid kept winning, with detractors insisting his strikes owed much to fortune.

"He has quality and it looks like he's lucky," Ancelotti mused. "(But) he's smarter than others when attacking from the second line."

Bellingham's goals slowed after the winter, in part because his start was so good it was impossible to maintain, but also because Ancelotti asked for more from him defensively.

There was also an ankle injury, a niggling shoulder issue and a suspension for dissent, as a rare crack in his perfectly curated image showed.

Yet despite not shining as brightly, it was still Bellingham who netted twice in Madrid's 4-0 win over Girona, a decisive moment in the title race.

And Bellingham again who struck the killer blow against Barcelona, with another stoppage-time winner, earning Real Madrid a 3-2 win in April that virtually sealed their crown.

Once again he was on target as Madrid thrashed Cadiz 3-0 on the day they clinched La Liga.

The versatile Bellingham might be even more crucial in a deeper role next season, should Madrid procure Kylian Mbappe as they hope. He has started superbly, and it is just that -- the start.