Our regular correspondent Simon Hart was in town to cover Sevilla on Matchday 3 – but it was a certain Dortmund player who commanded his attention
There is something about a night under the lights of the Sánchez-Pizjuán that brings the best out of prodigious talents wearing the yellow and black of Borussia Dortmund. After the German team’s visit in 2021, one Spanish newspaper summed up Erling Haaland’s battering of the home defence with the headline ‘A monster called’. The sight of the Norwegian smashing aside defenders like a bowling ball scattering skittles has stayed with me – and there was a similar sensation watching Jude Bellingham shine in Seville on Matchday 3.
It was the 19-year-old’s first game wearing the captain’s armband in the Champions League, making him the youngest Englishman to skipper a side in the competition. Talk about taking it in his stride. A highlights reel for the teenager would show the superb crossfield pass he drove with his left foot, beyond Jesús Navas and into the path of Raphaël Guerreiro in the lead-up to the Portuguese’s goal. And then his own magnificent strike, as he jinked past Nemanja Gudelj and stabbed the ball home with the outside of his right boot. It was the third Champions League game running in which he had found the net; with his subsequent goal against Sevilla at home on Matchday 4 he became only the third teenager – after Haaland and Kylian Mbappé – to have scored in four successive appearances in the competition.
His UEFA Player of the Match award in Seville was a logical conclusion. What really caught my eye though were two snapshots that underlined a rare maturity. Early in the contest when Emre Can – nine years his senior – showed his annoyance after overhitting a pass, up popped Bellingham offering a pat of encouragement. Then there was my own encounter with the teenager: a post-match interview for UEFA TV. Afterwards he stepped forward, shook my hand and actually said thank you.
An exceptional young footballer who has unusually good manners to boot.