LAGOS, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA) – Jude Bellingham, the global star now shining at Real Madrid, first made a name for himself when he left Birmingham teammates “chasing hotdogs” at the tender age of 16.
Kristian Pedersen, who was part of the Birmingham squad when the gifted teenager joined first-team training sessions from the academy, witnessed Bellingham’s rapid rise.
At that time, Bellingham was a relative unknown to even those training alongside him at St Andrew’s.
However, it didn’t take long for the young talent to earn respect, and his journey led him to Borussia Dortmund in 2020 before securing a €103 million (£89m/$110m) move to Santiago Bernabeu in the summer of 2023 after 13 goals in 14 appearances for Real.
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Pedersen is not surprised by Bellingham’s success in Spain, as the England international has a knack for making a positive impression.
The Danish international Pedersen shared his observations with Tipsbladet, saying, “I don’t know if the rest of us were joking a bit about it, but I was a bit skeptical at first about a 16-year-old being allowed to play for us.
He has to prove himself if they think he’s that good, but I myself was a little skeptical. But as long as he performs well in training, there’s nothing wrong with it.
“And already in the first training session, some of the things he did there were amazing.”
“We had an exercise, I can remember, where we did one-on-one drills. And by chance, I had to go up against Jude, and he completely left me ‘chasing after hotdogs.’
“He’s incredibly strong one-on-one and very smart and mature for his age. It surprised me a lot. There were some mixed opinions.
“There was no doubt that everyone in the squad knew that Jude is a top-class player. But retiring his number after a season as a 16/17-year-old… That was quite a move by Birmingham. You can then simply say that it has turned out to be the right decision.”
Birmingham’s decision to retire Bellingham’s No.22 jersey raised eyebrows at the time, but the young sensation is now a Kopa Trophy winner, the favorite to win the prestigious Golden Boy award in 2023, and is widely tipped to follow in the footsteps of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as a future multiple Ballon d’Or winner.