Why Birmingham City retired Jude Bellingham’s shirt number - and what England ace said about it

Jude Bellingham in his farewell appearance for Birmingham City
-Credit: (Image: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Birmingham City became the laughing stock of world football when they retired Jude Bellingham’s shirt number in 2020 – no one is laughing now.

Blues took the unusual step to retire Bellingham’s number 22 shirt after he joined Borussia Dortmund after one season in the club’s first team. Bellingham only played 44 first team games for Blues after becoming the club’s youngest ever player.

The news went viral and Bellingham, 17 at the time, was even caught off guard by the gesture. Four years on, no one has taken Bellingham’s number 22 shirt at St Andrew’s.

“If I’m honest, I probably don’t deserve it, in terms of my performances on the pitch,” Bellingham told The Times. “I felt like they were good, but the level you have to reach to get your shirt retired is very high. “As I always say, it’s not retired but reserved for when I go back and, hopefully, take them to the Premier League.”

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Bellingham has since gone on to become a talismanic figure for England, with whom he hopes to win Euro 2024, and Real Madrid. Bellingham helped Los Galacticos win a La Liga and Champions League double in his first season in Spain, scoring 23 goals and recording 11 assists in 43 matches.

Explaining their decision to retire the number 22 in 2020, a Blues statement said: "In such a remarkably short space of time Jude has become an iconic figure at Blues, showing what can be achieved through talent, hard work and dedication. His caring, humble and engaging off-the-field demeanour has also made him such an impressive role model.

"The 22 shirt has become synonymous with Jude, his rise to the first team aged just 16 years and 38 days and these qualities. And as such the club have decided it would be fitting to retire this number, to remember one of our own and to inspire others.

"Prior to his last game the club held a private celebration for people close to Jude's development. It was an opportunity for all to come together and to recognise the help and support Jude has had from all at Blues, notably the academy, and to provide him with another fitting farewell memory.

"Throughout the elongated transfer process that eventually made Jude the world's most expensive 17-year-old, he remained focused and totally committed to the Blues cause, which showed the importance of having a supportive family behind him."