Which club will sign Jude Bellingham? The whys and why nots for Liverpool, Man Utd, City, Real and others…

Ian Watson
Jude Bellingham is a target for Liverpool, Man City and Real Madrid.

Jude Bellingham will be one of the hottest properties of 2023. Here’s why he’ll join Liverpool, Man Utd, City, Chelsea and Real Madrid. And why he won’t…



Why he’ll join Liverpool: Since it first became clear from his performances in the Bundesliga that Bellingham was really bloody special, it seemed Liverpool were nailed on to be the club to take him off Borussia Dortmund’s hands.

Liverpool are crying out for a midfielder – actually two – and Jurgen Klopp kept his powder dry last summer to wait for Bellingham. Dortmund weren’t ready to sell in 2022, with Erling Haaland first in line for his big move. This summer, though, when Klopp can’t even pretend that he doesn’t need to spend big on his midfield, Bellingham will be on the market.

Klopp’s Dortmund connections can’t hurt, even if the Germans have already stated that Liverpool won’t get preferential treatment. But the Reds have played the long game – with Dortmund and Bellingham – wouth they come this far down the line if they were deadly serious?

Given the fee likely to be involved, it would represent quite a shift in transfer policy, but Liverpool aren’t averse to paying big money when absolutely necessary, evidenced by the record amounts coughed up for Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. “We have to buy premium and use the Academy. Liverpool deserves a process like this,” wrote Pep Lijnders in his book ‘Intensity’. Which sounds a little like Real’s ‘Zidanes y Pavones’ approach, but Bellingham would certainly fall into the ‘premium’ category.

The one big advantage Liverpool could have is Bellingham’s own mind. There have been repeated reports that the teenager would prefer to join Liverpool above all else this summer, all things being equal. Even if they aren’t, it was said not long ago that their woeful form this term hasn’t put him off. Indeed, like when Casemiro told United ‘I’ll fix this’ when they were getting battered by Brentford, Bellingham may relish the challenge of dragging Liverpool out of their slump.

Why he won’t: He’s too expensive.

At around £130million it is being briefed that Bellingham has become a little too rich for FSG’s taste. If the Bellingham sale echoed that of Haaland, where the price was set and clubs had to sell themselves to the player and his entourage, then Liverpool will fancy their chances. But a bidding war is likely to break out for Bellingham and FSG’s investment will stretch only so far since Klopp needs a number of top-class additions to kick-off the rebuild.

Perhaps patience hasn’t paid in this instance. Maybe Liverpool should have been more insistent and decisive in moving for Bellingham last summer, regardless of Dortmund’s determination not to wave off the England midfielder as well as Haaland. There is no question Liverpool would have been better placed last summer than they are this time around. And Bellingham would have been cheaper.

Then there is the issue of the Champions League. For the big players, especially those like Bellingham already with his feet under the top table, the thought of just one season outside the Champions League is often enough to make them look more favourably at moves elsewhere and Liverpool are currently way off the top four.


Manchester United

Why he will join United: In Casemiro, United finally bought a world-class midfielder and Christian Eriksen falls into a similar category. But Erik ten Hag undeniably still has work to do on his engine room, and United retain a ‘genuine’ interest in Bellingham.

There is no question that United are a more attractive proposition than they were prior to Ten Hag’s arrival. Before this season, Bellingham would almost certainly swerve Old Trafford – for the second time in his career.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona all met Bellingham and his parents at Carrington in 2020, at which point United were too content to trade on their history; Bellingham saw a brighter future at Dortmund and it proved to be a savvy move.

But under Ten Hag, and quite possibly under new ownership, the Red Devils would be a more tempting proposition for Bellingham, who could become the new face of the new United. United have the means to pay whatever transpires to be the going rate and a new owner will be keen to make a statement when they take the keys to Old Trafford.


Why he won’t: United might be up for sale but there remains a possibility that it will still be Joel and Avram Glazer still signing the cheques by the time the summer comes around. And the Glazers aren’t likely to sign off on a huge investment that will pay dividends for someone else.

United have a similar problem to Liverpool in that respect – uncertainty over their future direction. The Red Devils need regime change more urgently than Liverpool. The Anfield club have been run, in respect of their football activities, very astutely and Bellingham could go there reasonably secure in his surroundings. Until the Glazers are gone, United will remain tarnished by their ineptitude and that of those they hired around them. Bellingham (nor any player in such demand) is unlikely to want any part in that.

Regardless of whose name is above the door, United still need to operate under FFP restrictions and some reports suggest they will have to fund their summer’s activity with significant sales. Since they need a top-class striker above all else, most of their funds will likely be allocated towards their front line.

Read more: Man Utd must sell to buy? What each of Ten Hag’s players might fetch and where they could go… 


Why he will join Chelsea: Because Todd Boehly wants it to happen. And billionaire sporting directors tend to get what they want, especially when they waft around decade-long contracts…

It was claimed that Boehly is ‘obsessed’ by the idea of bringing Bellingham to Stamford Bridge. And Chelsea’s midfield certainly needs some attention being lavished upon it. Jorginho has gone; N’Golo Kante, apparently, is human after all; Mateo Kovacic’s future is in doubt; and Dennis Zakaria will be returned to Juventus.

Given the Blues’ midfield concerns, you might argue that Chelsea need him more than any other suitor. Such desperation, coupled with Boehly’s drive, could lead to the Blues doing something silly/spectacular.


Why he won’t: As you may have noticed, we’re struggling to make a case for Bellingham choosing Chelsea over the other options he’s sure to have.

It doesn’t even matter that Chelsea were prepared to pay over the asking price – that was before the World Cup when £90million was mooted. That probably wouldn’t even get them a meeting now. That doesn’t mean the Blues won’t be among the bidders, but Boehly is unlikely to impress Dortmund ahead of United, City or Real.

The one advantage Chelsea often have in luring players is the appeal of living in London. But reports suggest that isn’t a factor for Bellingham, with perhaps the opposite true. One report said the teenager, born and bred in the Midlands, doesn’t fancy moving to the capital.


Manchester City

Why he’ll join City: The champions have been doing that thing they do, lurking in the background until they sense their moment to pounce. Much like they did with Haaland. And it’s hard to shake the inevitability they won’t do the same again with Bellingham.

Of course, they have the means and the signing of Jack Grealish indicated a change of tack from when City were reluctant to spend mega-money on one player, preferring to hover around the £60million mark.

The lure of playing with Grealish and Phil Foden is likely to be strong, even if he will encounter England team-mates at any of the Premier League clubs looking to land his signature. And, of course, Bellingham is almost guaranteed to win titles and trophies with City. Even more so if he joins.

As Rio Ferdinand suggests, Bellingham could follow the Haaland blueprint: Dortmund to City, then on to Real in a few seasons. Assuming Real’s interest remains.

Then there is the Pep Guardiola factor. Players want to play for Pep and now he’s committed to City until 2025, Bellingham would be guaranteed at least two seasons under the Catalan coach.

Why he won’t: It’s genuinely hard to think of a reason why signing for Manchester City would not be a good idea for Bellingham.

Might it be too easy? The obvious target for City is their first Champions League title but would Bellingham be a game-changer for City in the same way he would for Liverpool, United and Chelsea? Nope.

Those clubs can only hope City’s strength works against them in this instance. At Anfield, Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge, Bellingham could become the face of each club, the driving force for a better future. At the Etihad, he’d be another cog, though a bloody big and important one, in Pep’s winning machine. That would appeal to many players. Perhaps Bellingham fancies making more of a difference with his next move. Everyone else need hope so.

Not long ago, City’s status may have been a problem. They simply weren’t regarded as a club as grand as one of the traditional powerhouses, like United or Liverpool. But perceptions change, and the fact Haaland and Grealish chose City over other offers some encouragement that the yoof are starting to look at City in the same light as their elite rivals.

The Premier League charges, though, might be a concern unless City’s lawyers can kick the can down the road for long enough to get Bellingham’s feet under the table.

Jude Bellingham celebrates

Real Madrid

Why he’ll join Real: It takes a brave boy to turn down Real f***ing Madrid…

However we might view Liverpool, United and Chelsea, there are only really two clubs in the world for whom everyone wants to play: Real and Barcelona. Before Barca became an economic basket case.

Perhaps English players have been more reluctant to move abroad in the past but the new generation seems a lot more open to playing in foreign climes and Bellingham has already proved his willingness to try a new country, language and lifestyle by moving from Birmingham to Dortmund as a 17-year-old.

If Bellingham wants to fulfil his potential as one of the best midfielders on the planet, there is no better place than the Bernabeu. Real breed Ballon d’Or winners and Bellingham has made no secret of his desire to hit such heights. Even if he went to Madrid, played in the same future-proof midfield as Aurelien Tchouameni, Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and, for some unlikely reason, it didn’t work out, he would almost certainly have the same Premier League options post-Real. Can he be certain he will still have the option to join Real further down the line? Florentino Perez isn’t a man who appreciates a custard pie.

Why he won’t: Are Real as keen as we’re led to believe?

Carlo Ancelotti has already overseen a remodelling of Real’s midfield, with Casemiro gone and Luka Modric and Toni Kroos each coming to the end of their reigns in Spain. Tchouameni and Camavinga have been recruited, with Valverde emerging too.

Real’s main priority now is to supplement their forward line, even if Karim Benzema intends to stay for one more season. Reports suggest they want Erling Haaland, perhaps as early as this summer.

So are they willing to spend massive money on another midfielder, especially when they can source depth from elsewhere for much less than the price Bellingham is likely to go for?

If Real are as serious about Bellingham as Liverpool, he probably goes to Madrid. But their need is not as great as his other suitors’. How determined would they be if Liverpool, United, Chelsea and City drag them into a bidding war? It has already been claimed that Real will offer £110million, plus £40million in add-ons. Dortmund will likely get full-whack up front from one of the Premier League big hitters.