Real Madrid believe the signing of Jude Bellingham — which cost the LaLiga club an initial €103 million ($137m) fee plus another 30% in variables — should be viewed as a bargain given his instant impact and long-term potential, sources have told ESPN.
An eye-catching start to the season has seen the England international score 10 goals and provide three assists in just 10 appearances so far, including a brace in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Osasuna at the Bernabeu.
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Sources told ESPN that Madrid think the investment in Bellingham, 20, can already be considered a success, both on and off the pitch, and his price tag will “end up looking cheap” because he will “define an era” at the club.
The LaLiga giants originally identified Bellingham as a strategic signing, ESPN sources said, believing he had the talent and age profile to be one of the team’s leaders for a decade.
Even so, the midfielder’s initial performance has exceeded all expectations.
He has scored eight goals in eight LaLiga starts, as well as finding the net in both of Madrid’s Champions League games against Union Berlin and Napoli.
Bellingham caught the eye from day one, with executives, coaching staff and players telling ESPN that they were surprised by his level in games and in training.
He’s “a professional, from head to toe” a teammate told ESPN, saying he immediately won over the dressing room in pre-season.
“His physique surprised everyone,” the source said, praising the easy rapport Bellingham has formed with teammates, making an effort to speak some Spanish.
Club executives highlight the player’s personality and strength of character.
Teammates were struck by Bellingham’s presence on the pitch in his debut for the club in a friendly against AC Milan at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on July 24.
“It looked like he’d been playing for us for two years,” a squad source told ESPN.
Bellingham became the second most expensive signing in Real Madrid’s history — after Eden Hazard — as they beat City and Liverpool to his signature last summer, having tracked him since he broke into the first team at Birmingham City.
President Florentino Perez was confident that Bellingham would be a star, but sources told ESPN that after watching the midfielder up close this season, the club believe he will be even better than they could have hoped.
Any doubts — such as the supposed difficulties of English players adapting to Spanish football, the added pressure of playing for Real Madrid and needing to get used to a new style of play — have already been dispelled, sources said.
The club believe that Bellingham can be key to growing Madrid’s already global brand in English-speaking markets with his outstretched arms celebration proving particularly popular, another source told ESPN. The source also praised the player’s “friendly, easy-going” attitude and willingness to collaborate in the club’s social media initiatives.