Why Jude Bellingham is Real Madrid's number 5 after his Birmingham City shirt was retired

Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham
-Credit: (Image: PA)


It's a fairy tale of an occasion for Jude Bellingham as he prepares to play in the Champions League final on Saturday night. And the stars have aligned for the England international. It's as if he was able to decide on who was involved and where the game would be played.

Current club Real Madrid versus former club Borussia Dortmund, who he captained before leaving for the Spanish capital last summer, clashing in England at Wembley Stadium, the home of football. With such destiny, is anything but a Real victory possible? Well, we shall see.

Just for the record, Bellingham also faces the prospect of becoming the second Birmingham City product to lift Europe's premier football trophy - after the late, great Trevor Francis, who did last summer. All in all, it is bound to be a poignant evening for the supremely gifted 20-year-old - ahead of his participation back in Germany with England for EURO 2024 later this month.

Bellingham came through the ranks at Blues and broke into the first-team set-up under Pep Clotet in 2019. Having just turned 16, he made his debut - becoming the youngest ever player to represent Blues in doing so - in an EFL Cup defeat at Portsmouth. The match itself was insignificant in the grand scheme of Blues' history, but for Jude it marked the beginning of his senior career. The rise so far has been stratospheric.

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The number 22 wasn't just a random shirt assigned to Bellingham. There was a deeper reasoning behind his decision to don the number. Priding himself on his ability to play across all three prominent midfield roles - the 4, the 8 and the 10 - Bellingham simply added those numbers up. When Bellingham left for Dortmund in 2020, he was able to select the same number at Westfalenstadion.

Blues, although the announcement was greeted with derision from rival football supporters on social media, decided to retire the outgoing Bellingham's 22 shirt. And as the player goes from strength to strength, what seemed a risky call at the time is slowly appearing less and less irrational.

"The club have decided it would be fitting to retire this number, to remember one of our own and to inspire others," Blues' statement said at the time.

Bellingham did have to have a rethink when he pitched up at the Santiago Bernabeu last summer; 22 isn't a number which is in demand, but in the Real dressing room it was already allocated to former Chelsea centre-half and German international Antonio Rudiger. And Rudiger wasn't going to give up his number for anybody, not even one of the hottest prospects on the planet.

So what to do? Well, Bellingham had grown up watching Europe's best players. It might've been slightly before his time, but he admired the world class talent of Real "Galactico" Zinedine Zidane - so Bellingham opted for the vacant number 5 shirt.

"There wasn't much else left," Bellingham jokes as he explained his selection. "It adds a little bit of pressure but I wanted to pay homage to one of my idols."

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