Jude Bellingham said it was “disrespectful” to talk about Premier League links but it’s not like he needs to with everyone discussing the subject.
The England international and Borussia Dortmund superstar looks set to follow a well-trodden path, leaving the Bundesliga talent pool for mega cash.
Whether it’s Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho or Ousmane Dembele, the financial constraints of Germany’s top-flight sides make it difficult to retain top stars, and Bellingham will be no different.
Haaland’s sale to Manchester City this year has made a move for Bellingham in the same window impossible, but sets up a mega fight next summer with candidates already lining up.
Among them, the biggest and strongest links appear to be Liverpool and Real Madrid, and while that could change in an instant, Bellingham may have played their part with the former side.
The Reds clearly need midfield support, having been forced to make a deadline for Arthur Melo with many of their options in the middle of the park either injury-prone or ageing.
And Bellingham more than does the trick, with the 19-year-old already showing talent and leadership well beyond his years, with some saying he could have the same impact on Liverpool as Haaland did on Man City.
And there’s a chance the Reds have the upper hand, with Bellingham regularly having minor flirtations with Anfield, mainly when it comes to their hero.
The former Birmingham man had created rumbles on Twitter for liking certain Liverpool-related content, then went further in May 2021 when he posted a Steven Gerrard compilation featuring a pair of mind-blowing emojis.
If that wasn’t enough, during England’s preparations for Euro 2020 last summer, Bellingham took part in a feature ‘Lions’ Den’ and was asked if he could swap shirts with n’ any player in the history of football, and did not hesitate.
“Stevie G, easily to be fair,” he replied.
“Actually, no it’s not easy, I think he or [Wayne] Rooney is definitely close. But I think they are both a long way off.
“But I think I would go Gerrard, but just because the No.8 [shirt]position similar to mine, so yeah, I’d probably go with him.
“I love Stevie G to be fair.”
A similar topic came up months later after the tournament when Bellingham and his good friend Reece James took part in a ‘Roomates’ quiz in which they had to guess each other’s answers to questions.
James had a multiple choice for who Bellingham would most like to swap shirts with Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.
Unsurprisingly, the Chelsea right-back opted for club legend Lampard, and Bellingham was delighted to inform him he was mistaken.
“Yes!” he shouted after seeing James’ response. “Frank Lampard?! Stevie G my brother!
Luckily for the No.22, the admiration isn’t one-sided either, with Aston Villa boss Gerrard having asked earlier in 2022 what his top five midfield talents in the world were.
Likewise, without hesitation, Gerrard initially said, “I love Jude Bellingham, I absolutely love him.”
It’s not just ex-Liverpool players that Bellingham is assessing, but current ones as well, as revealed when designing his 2022 FIFA squad.
The Dortmund star was asked the age-old question of ‘Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo’ with a spot left in his starting XI.
Bellingham picked the Paris Saint-Germain man from two options but didn’t give either of them their final spot, awarding him to Mohamed Salah instead.
“For this team, I think it’s hard not to go with Salah,” he said.
“Messi will go to a lot of teams because of what he did and obviously he was in a struggling Barca team and he was brilliant but I’ll probably have to go with Salah just because of the way he started this season. “
Despite splashes of admiration for the Merseysiders, part of what was so impressive early in Bellingham’s career was his professionalism.
Always at ease in interviews, ahead of his side’s Champions League loss to City, he was asked about transfer rumors by the British media.
“Above all, I’m here to win,” he replied. “I’m here to help Borussia Dortmund win the game and if I can play well and show my talent, that’s a bonus.
“But I’m here to win for Borussia Dortmund, hopefully, and I’m very happy at the minute, focused on all the goals we have as a team, I don’t really look beyond that.
“The club have done a lot for me, made me feel welcome since I arrived and given me the opportunity to develop even further, so to look beyond that and look even further into the future would be disrespectful. .
“It’s not something I watch, I have a huge game against Manchester City, I think even to think of something like that would be crazy and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”
It’s hard not to believe the England international when he speaks with such certainty, but clubs will already be preparing their bids for next summer, and Bellingham’s flirtations at Anfield are unlikely to have gone unnoticed by Jurgen Klopp and his employers.