England manager Gareth Southgate hailed an incredible’ Jude Bellingham after the midfielder inspired his side to a 3-1 win over Italy at Wembley on Tuesday and a place at the Euro 2024 finals.
The 20-year-old did not make it on the scoresheet but his influence and confidence in driving the team forward was immense.
“I was really pleased with the way we controlled the game,” Southgate told reporters.
“With Jude, his mentality is incredible for his age. To have such an impact at such a young age, to show such maturity but also humility. We’re very lucky to have him.”
Bellingham has also made a huge impact at Real Madrid since joining from Borussia Dortmund this year, scoring 10 goals in his first 10 matches.
He said after Tuesday’s game that the move to Real had improved his game 100%.
“When you are around those mentalities and quality of players every day… it takes you to a new level mentally, physically and technically,” he told the BBC.
Southgate said the youngster had been a “catalyst” for England.
“Just the way he carries himself and the way he plays on the field shows that,” he explained.
“He’s had that since he walked through the door, frankly. Plus the power in his play, that gives us something when you’re in tight situations and he can suddenly wriggle out of things.
“I think that belief, that willingness to engage with the crowd, they are rare traits in a player so young.”
While Bellingham stood out, Southgate made clear his captain Harry Kane — scorer of two of the goals, one from the penalty spot — had also played a crucial part.
“There’s a risk we take the goals for granted,” he said on a night that saw Kane become England’s all time top scorer at Wembley with 24 goals.
“But his all-round play, the way he physically dealt with the centre backs, his vision, his passing — because we’ve had him for a while he’s easy to under-estimate but he’s a top level player.”
Southgate said Kane’s big money move to Bayern Munich from Tottenham Hotspur had provided a fresh impetus but he also clearly enjoyed coming home and being part of the England group again.
“Our senior players set a brilliant example for the young ones,” said Southgate.