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AP/PA Images Jude Bellingham in action.
# Inspiration
Bellingham's shades of Rooney a thrill to senses
Roy Keane summed up midfielder’s credentials – ‘Maturity, decision-making, what’s going on upstairs, end product, final pass. The kid has everything.’

LAST UPDATE | Dec 5th 2022, 8:39 AM

JUDE BELLINGHAM HAD not yet turned one when Wayne Rooney began to entice the world with his fearless aggression and quality at Euro 2004.

Now the 19-year-old England midfielder is inspiring his teammates – and country – with shades of the same traits that catapulted the young Scouser towards stardom.

Bellingham’s contribution in the 3-0 win over Senegal was a thrill to the senses, a throwback to the zealous excitement which Rooney stirred almost two decades ago.

There is, of course, a slight difference in the respective paths to similar points in their careers.

Bellingham is already an accomplished performer on the European stage for his club, Borussia Dortmund, and was involved in Euro 2020 as a 17-year-old, whereas Rooney had yet to leave the bosom of Goodison Park before trampling all over the reputation of France’s Lillian Thuram.

Like Rooney, though, who left his boyhood club for Manchester United not long after those Euros, Bellingham has also fled the nest from the team closest to his heart.

Birmingham City retired his old shirt number (22) when he left for Germany in a deal worth upwards of €25 million at 17, a gesture they said was fitting in order to try and inspire the new generation of talent.

It was mocked by most at the time.

Not anymore.

england-v-croatia PA Rooney celebrates with Paul Scholes at Euro 2004. PA

At half-time of what turned out to be a routine 3-0 win over Senegal, Shay Given asked on RTÉ whether it was too early to compare Bellingham’s display to that of Paul Gascoigne.

That’s going back to an even different era – 32 years to when Gazza played at a World Cup in Italia 90 – and maybe it’s pointless looking to the past to try and map out the future for a talented teenager who is only beginning to leave his imprints on the game.

From the opening group fixture against Iran, when he arched his neck and placed a header delicately under the crossbar, Bellingham has been compared with greats of the past.

That goal was similar to Steven Gerrard’s for Liverpool when he helped them on the comeback trail against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.

Bellingham then struggled against the USA but has thrived since, and the manner in which he helped stir England from a dangerous slumber against Senegal last night was enough to impress even Roy Keane.

“I’ve not seen a young midfielder perform like that for years. You usually see it from a world-class player who’s 26, 27. Everything he does in the game. We talk about what goes on in his brain,” the former Ireland and Manchester United captain said on ITV.

“He’s got that maturity, his decision-making, what’s going on upstairs – it’s huge for a midfielder. End product, final pass, the kid has everything.”

england-v-senegal-fifa-world-cup-2022-round-of-16-al-bayt-stadium PA Bellingham (right) celebrates with Jordan Henderson. PA

That was evident in England’s opener on 38 minutes, a goal that came against the run of play and could easily have been one which was needed to get them back in the game had Jordan Pickford not made two exceptional saves beforehand.

Instead it formed the platform to confirm their superiority.

Gareth Southgate’s side had been second best and lacking energy, then they sprung into life with Bellingham providing the spark. Harry Maguire played the ball out left to Luke Shaw, his sharp pass forward was quickly flicked into the path of Harry Kane by Phil Foden, and that is when Bellingham pounced.

He glided into the space, collected the pass from Kane, and with two defenders closing in waited until the time was just right to pull a left-footed cross into the path of Jordan Henderson so he could finish first-time without breaking stride.

Rather than thrashing a hopeful ball across the face of goal as soon as he was clear, Bellingham drew his markers closer and backed himself to produce.

He did so again on the stroke of half-time, producing a masterclass of midfield play in a matter of seconds.

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When Ismail Jakobs’ cross was headed back into the centre of the pitch by Kyle Walker, Bellingham was only a couple of yards in front of the six-yard box. It was one minute and 57 seconds into first-half injury time.

When Pathe Ciss failed to get that breaking ball under control with his chest two seconds later, Bellingham was already sensing a chance to win possession.

He did so when the clock struck 47 minutes, heading the ball beyond Ciss and the surging by the covering Youssouf Sabaly.

These seven seconds were all about anticipation, bravery, strength and positivity.

The next two needed composure, vision, timing and technique.

Again, Bellingham delivered.

world-cup-2022-england-senegal DPA / PA Images Bellingham in possession. DPA / PA Images / PA Images

He shrugged off Sabaly, saw that Adbou Diallo briefly considered pressuring him and then fed Foden on the left with another left-footed pass. Again, Foden didn’t have to check his run and could then swiftly change the direction of the attack with an assist for Harry Kane who rifled home.

The ball hit the net on 47 minutes and 11 seconds – a devastating counter-attack which Bellingham instigated through a lethal combination of defensive instinct and attacking flair.

Such contributions mean that on Saturday he will share the same pitch as France’s Kylian Mbappe, only four years his senior but someone who, aged just 23, occupies a different kind of stratosphere right now.

Bellingham is the superstar in waiting. It won’t be for long on this evidence.

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