You may or may not have seen the reports this week in the Spanish media which alleged that Real Madrid have sent scouts along to watch Jobe Bellingham play for England, with the 18-year-old standing out for all the reasons for both club and country since his transfer from Birmingham City during the summer.
Being the younger brother of the best player in the world is going to draw extra attention to Bellingham whether he’s doing well or not, but the fact he’s seemingly backing up all of that potential and promise with good performances is going to set pulses racing around the footballing world as bigger clubs look to nab themselves a future star at the highest level.
Whether Jobe will ever reach those heights remains to be seen, and given he’s played less than 40 senior games in his career it seems a bit daft to even be adding credence to these reports, but you can’t help getting excited when you see how well he’s adapted to life on Wearside, and how well he’s doing whenever he pulls on an England shirt.
He’s got the same build as his older brother and plays in almost the same style, so the comparisons are easy to make. If we’re seeing that, so are highly paid scouts from the biggest clubs around the world — hence why when I read the story about Madrid scouting him, I wasn’t at all surprised.
He’s got a hell of a long way to go before he’s seen near the standard of Jude, but still... I don’t scoff or feel shocked when I try and visualise him making a big move sooner rather than later.
I would love Sunderland to hang on to all of our best players, but we have to be honest with ourselves — we have a place in the food chain, and in some cases we’re going to be incapable of offering some of our players what clubs playing in the Premier League or in the top leagues across Europe can. And that’s okay, because offering young players a platform to develop and shine is a massive part of the way we sell ourselves to potential recruits.
I imagine that a big part of the way he proposed a deal to Bellingham and his family — whose opinions we know are integral to the respective career paths of both of their sons — was that if he made the move to us, we’d elevate him to a level where he’d develop to the point where big money moves were on the horizon.
I’m content with that. I’m not so pig-headed that I think Sunderland is the top of the tree for some of these players. Even if I think my club is the best, it’s just not the case for everyone, particularly professional footballers who want to play at the very highest level.
As Jobe continues to grow and improve, we’re going to see him continually linked with moves away. The Bellingham name means a great deal in the game at the minute, and if he can couple that with backing it up with good performances on the pitch for Sunderland, it won’t be long before ridiculous offers start coming our way that are impossible to field.
Real Madrid may seem overly ambitious at the minute, but if we’re seeing top-level performances from the lad over the next 18 months it won’t just be the Galacticos chasing his signature. Every big club in Europe will be in the conversation.
Hopefully by the time Jobe does leave he leaves us with the club in an even better place than when he arrived. His individual success as a player should come hand-in-hand with the success of the team, and that goes for all of our players who are no doubt going to be linked with big moves away. Ballard, Cirkin, Clarke, Neil, Hume — if they’re playing well enough to be thought of as good enough to play at the highest level, you’d imagine that’s because Sunderland are getting it right in the Championship.
This is just the start, and I think the sooner you come to terms with that, the easier it will be to accept when these players move on.