How England ace Jude Bellingham saved Birmingham City from financial peril

Birmingham City have a lot to thank England and Real Madrid superstar Jude Bellingham for.

The 20-year-old from Stourbridge is adored by the blue half of Birmingham and no fanbase is more vociferous in their support of his achievements with club and country. Thousands of Brummies cheered Bellingham to Champions League glory with Real Madrid earlier this month and they hope to watch him lead England to the Euro 2024 trophy next month.

Bellingham’s Blues story started well over a decade ago, as an under-eight, and it ended with him moving to Dortmund in a transfer worth in excess of £20 million four years ago. To his credit, he waited until his 17th birthday had passed to sign his first professional contract at Blues to make sure his boyhood club was handsomely compensated when the world’s biggest clubs came calling.

The money Blues received from Dortmund saved the club from running into financial difficulties under its former owners. “I have to take every opportunity to express my gratitude to the family and this boy,” Blues’ chief executive at the time, Xuandong Ren, told BBC WM. “This boy is going to go a long way.

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“He could easily have just looked after himself and not the club, but he chose the best possible way to look after the club. We cannot possibly imagine, without Jude’s decision, where we would be as a club in a pandemic like this.”

Fast-forward three years and Blues were taken over by current owners Knighthead Capital Management. The Americans have put Blues on strong financial footing and spent millions repairing and improving the club's facilities.

However, the club might have breached the EFL’s financial rules had Bellingham not left Dortmund for Real Madrid last summer and provided Blues with a healthy cash boost. Blues received another chunk of cash after inserting a sell-on clause in the deal which took Bellingham to Germany.

Knighthead co-founder and Blues chairman Tom Wagner said: “The reality is, prior ownership was counting on that sale for a period of time so much of those funds were already effectively spent in the past. They certainly help and helps us to avoid a potential penalty for excessive losses. We’re thankful because it helped us to avoid a situation that could have been rather untenable.

“I think it’s wonderful that we have developed a player of the quality of Jude, not just a Birmingham star but a star for England. We hope to develop other players over time and hope for continued success with our academy, which has proven to be one of the hidden gems of Birmingham City.”