Youngster Jude Bellingham has a lot to live up to in his new stint with Real Madrid after being handed the iconic No. 5 shirt once donned by Zinedine Zidane. Bellingham, who signed a six-year deal with Europe`s most successful club, posed with his new shirt before Madrid`s packed trophy case after he passed his medical exam and signed the contract alongside club president Florentino Pérez.
Following his presentation, Bellingham finished a brief speech where he thanked his family and former teams with Madrid`s battle cry: `Hala Madrid!`
Despite reportedly being a transfer target for several top European clubs, including Manchester City and Manchester United, Bellingham opted to move to the Spanish club that has won the European Cup a record 14 times.
Pérez called Bellingham one of the `best players in the world` and underscored that while he had other clubs after him, `he is here because this is where he wanted to be`.
Madrid did not confirm the transfer fee, but Dortmund said in a statement to the stock exchange last week that it could reach more than 130 million euros ($139 million).
Only 19 years old, Bellingham joins a youth movement at Madrid that includes 22-year-old Brazil forwards Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo, French internationals Eduardo Camavinga (20) and Aurélien Tchouaméni (23), and Uruguay midfielder Federico Valverde (24).
While he won`t be asked to replace the scoring void left by the exit of Karim Benzema, Bellingham may still have some very big boots to fill. Veteran midfielders Luka Modric, a former Ballon d`Or winner, and Toni Kroos, both have contracts that expire at the end of this month.
Bellingham joined Dortmund from second-division English club Birmingham in 2020. His three-season stay at Dortmund ended after the team lost the German title to Bayern Munich on goal difference. He debuted for England in 2020 and has played 24 times for his national team.
Madrid has also made small deals to buy back former players Brahim Díaz and Fran García as it seeks to recover the Champions League and Spanish league titles that it relinquished last season.
The powerhouse team is expected to attempt to make another big signing to replace Benzema after his departure for Saudi Arabia. Madrid is in the middle of rumors of a possible exit of Kylian Mbappé from Paris Saint-Germain or Harry Kane from Tottenham.
(With AP inputs)