Southgate sidesteps strange Bellingham comparison to hail teen
England manager Gareth Southgate has praised the “thirst” shown by Jude Bellingham to learn from the experienced members of his squad.
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder became England’s third-youngest international of all time when he made his debut last year.
Bellingham, 17, also shone during the second half of Thursday’s 5-0 win over San Marino in the opening fixture of World Cup qualification.
The midfielder may be in line to make his first competitive start when the Three Lions face Albania in Tirana on Sunday.
Speaking ahead of the game, Southgate was quite weirdly asked if the teenager reminded him of a young Rio Ferdinand when he was called up as a training player to help the England squad prepare at Euro 96.
Click Here: canterbury-bankstown bulldogs jersey
“They are different people and different positions but both with a thirst to watch the top players to see what made them professionals, what makes them top professionals,” he said.
“Jude has got that with some of the experienced players at his club like Mats Hummels. He can see why he’s a World Cup winner, why he has had the longevity in the game that he has, and he’ll be looking at our senior players and seeing why they’ve hit the level they have.
“He’s very keen to learn and observe in that regard. That is a process all young players go through and that is why it is so important for us to have good senior players as role models.
“We can talk to them as coaches but there are lots of things they can pick up training alongside good professionals every day.”
Southgate also claimed Bellingham would be suited to handling the pressure, both on and off the pitch, if he makes the cut for the rescheduled European Championship this summer.
“I’d say further advanced than his football even,” he said.
“I couldn’t be more impressed with him as a human being. His parents have done a fantastic job and should be very proud.
“He’s got humility, good manners, confidence and a lovely way about him. There was a video that the FA released of some personal insights of his and I couldn’t believe some of his interactions with the fans in Birmingham, at the age of 16, 17.
“Not many players have the confidence to go and get the fans going and get them roaring behind the team when they’ve just scored, and I thought that was quite significant in showing the level of his thinking and his comfort in going and putting himself out there to do that.
“So I’m very, very impressed with him. We’ve got to make sure that we look after him, that we help with that education and help with that development.
“We’ve got to protect him at the right times but he’s going about it in exactly the right manner.”