When Jude Bellingham arrived at Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2020, just turned 17, the expectations of analysts were enormous, as René Maric, then assistant coach of Borussia Mönchengladbach, recalls: "I had read his reports and all of Germany was crazy about him, but when I saw him play 90 minutes in the Bundesliga for the first time I was deeply impressed. Remember. The impact did not come only from his technical ability or his level of physical development, very advanced for his age: "It was his attitude. He didn't seem baffled by the opportunity. On the contrary. I was squeezing it, and it already conveyed a feeling of 'The good guy really is me. I want to win and compete at the highest level."
The following season, Maric had the opportunity to follow very closely the evolution of the player whose contract closed on Wednesday Real Madrid for 103 million euros more to another 30 in variables. The Austrian coach moved as Marco Rose's deputy to the Dortmund bench for the second year of English in Germany.
Real Madrid will pay 103 million to Dortmund for the signing of Jude Bellingham
After what he had seen on television, and in the matches in which they had faced, Bellingham surprised Maric again in the short distance: "I did not expect that mixture of relentlessness in all aspects and intelligence on and off the field. Not only is he mature; He is polite, intelligent and thoughtful. In training, he not only did the right thing, but he has an amazing ability to translate instructions into actions, and not only come up with the right answers, but also ask the right questions. I think that's why he's evolved so quickly to such a high level: with his talent, he needs less time to understand himself, and also to understand the game and have an impact on it."
Already on the grass, in the work sessions, Maric saw a player ready to function as the essential piece of a team that then enjoyed Erling Haaland to finish the plays: "When you train him, you immediately think about how to build around him and what he could contribute in different positions".
All the best to the best! Happy birthday to an amazing personality & fascinating player. @BellinghamJude pic.twitter.com/NTz8Mmu2Op
— René Marić (@ReneMaric) June 29, 2022
In his second German season, Bellingham was already the player who played the most minutes in Dortmund, 3,797, much more than Haaland, for example, who was eighth with 2,387. He was only 18, but as Maric recalls, "sometimes he seemed like someone who has already had a career, while still being a kid with a carefree attitude, and at the same time obsessed with his ambition, his career, and winning."
His last image in a Dortmund shirt reflects that voracity. They had slipped away from the Bundesliga title at home on the final day, which they arrived at depending on themselves. They had to beat Mainz, and they drew (2-2). Bellingham did not play because of discomfort in his right knee. At the end, with Bayern celebrating the trophy in Munich, the English midfielder walked with his head down the field. He was followed by a television camera, until he pushed her away with a slight blow. He had missed a league on his last afternoon at Signal Iduna Park.
Maric, who cares a lot about the development of his players, believes that Bellingham's maturity in understanding what his profession requires has brought him so soon to the level he is at now: "Some great talents have failed because they did not learn to take responsibility for themselves: the attitude in training, With the coaching staff, with the fans, the media, behave like professionals, take care of your body and your life. Jude is so far along that he is already entering the next phase, something that many are not able to achieve: taking responsibility for others and taking responsibility for them, on and off the field."
Working so many hours very closely with Bellingham, Maric also knows what can be expected of the footballer these years on the pitch, aspects that he already showed in his daily work: "I think his dribbling, shooting, goals and changes of game were seen more in training than on the field, But they start showing up more and more often." In his penultimate season at Dortmund he scored six goals in all competitions, while in the one he just finished he scored 14. "It's his strengths and he's learning to place himself more and more in those kinds of situations," he explains. "This season he had a more offensive role than in the previous one and the team needed him to do that. That's how he is: he wants to influence the game and thanks to his skills he can do it anywhere on the field."
Bellingham said goodbye to Germany as the best player in the Bundesliga, without having turned 20 (he will do so on June 29), but Maric believes he still has room to progress: "He can improve in details of his positioning and in how he turns, in making decisions in passing, in being more patient with himself and with the situation, to influence better rather than faster."
He sees a very exciting horizon: "If you want me to exaggerate, the best possible version of Jude could be like a Zidane in small spaces and like a Gerrard in open spaces." Last season Bellingham dazzled in the hot zones: he was the most dribbling midfielder in the five major European leagues and one of the most passes sent into the box and more times touched the ball there. "Will it reach that mixture? It is impossible to say, but it is obviously very difficult. Then it would be unique."
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