Jude Bellingham: You almost get used to racist abuse when we play away in Spain

Champions League - Real Madrid Press Conference - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - April 16, 2024 Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham during the press conference

Jude Bellingham admits Manchester City and other Premier League clubs had no chance of signing him last summer after Real Madrid’s “no-brainer” offer.

Bellingham faces City on Wednesday in the Champions League quarter-finals and had the pick of English teams wanting him when he left Borussia Dortmund, with the Spanish giants landing him in a deal worth £115 million.

City were in the market for midfielders ahead of his campaign, with Matheus Nunes and Mateo Kovacic signed for Pep Guardiola’s squad.

“I had conversations with other teams but when Madrid came in it was a no-brainer really,” said Bellingham. “The size of the club, the project, the plan going forward, the chance to play with such amazing players. I just jumped at it.

“That’s why I made my decision. I had good chats with clubs including Dortmund and my family were great in helping me chew up that information because it’s difficult while you are still in the season to take in the information and process it and still have to play at the weekend or in the Champions League.”

‘Ancelotti makes me believe I am a bit better than I am’

The 20-year-old is set to start in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium, with the tie poised at 3-3. After breaking the 20-goal barrier in his first season at Real, Bellingham says his progress has been down to manager Carlo Ancelotti.

“The sign of a good manager is when he makes you believe you are a bit better than you are,” said Bellingham. “He gives me the freedom to roam, he’s a top person and has been amazing in helping me adapt and understand my potential.”

Coach of Real Madrid Carlo Ancelotti talks to Jude Bellingham and Eduardo Camavinga of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 9, 2024 in Madrid, Spain.
Bellingham praised Ancelotti's approach and management - Getty Images/Jean Catuffe

The one downside to life in Spain is that Bellingham now expects “disgusting” racist abuse while playing in La Liga.

Such is the regularity of racist taunts, it was not on Bellingham’s radar that a Mallorca supporter was captured aiming abuse at Aurélien Tchouaméni when he scored Real’s winner at the weekend. These acts are so commonplace in Spain that Bellingham was fully focused on facing Manchester City this week in the Champions League.

‘People in power need to do more about racism’

The issue of racism in football is one Bellingham feels passionate about after seeing his team-mate Vinicius Jr targeted to the point where the Brazil forward broke down in tears when talking about his ordeal, revealing that he is losing the desire to play.

“It’s a horrible way for a player to prepare for a game knowing that they’re probably going to get racially abused. It’s disgusting. It shouldn’t happen. The people in power need to do more, especially with Vini in the recent weeks – well, years actually,” said Bellingham.

“In the games where we go away, in La Liga especially, you almost get so used to it that. I wasn’t even aware of the incident at the weekend, which is a massive problem in itself. More has got to be done, whether it’s the punishment and how you react to it or how you move proactively to this kind of thing.

Rodrygo of Real Madrid celebrates with Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Jr after scoring his side's second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 09, 2024 in Madrid, Spain
Bellingham spoke up on racism in Spain - Getty Images/James Gill

“I think the blame gets shifted more onto Vini because of maybe his playing style and the way he likes to express himself and I don’t think that’s fair. The game would miss players like Vini if he decided to take a break because of this thing. More needs to be done to support these players. It’s sad to hear because I get to know the lads really well personally.

“No-one deserves that kind if thing. It’s definitely a call-out for the people who are in charge to take control. I doubt that will happen. It’s going to be something that I imagine we will still have to just deal with going into games. But it’s one of those things where you have just got to play your game and hope that the people look after you and they’re not doing it well enough at the moment.”

Bellingham has not spoken to the written press during England duty so it was a glimpse into the world of a young player with strong views, with the ex-Birmingham player answering every question thrown his way.

He wore headphones with an interpreter to understand Spanish journalists, although he said it was because they were speaking too quickly. Because he has really settled into life in Spain – including the language – in just 10 months since his move from Borussia Dortmund.

His goalscoring run has only slowed down after an ankle injury which disrupted his rhythm, along with a two-match suspension for a red card. He still has a record heading into the City clash of three goals in nine games which many other midfielders would be pleased with.

‘My game is more than goals’

Having played some of the season as the focal point of Ancelotti’s attack, he is expected to make his runs from a little deeper against City. “The injury killed my rhythm against Girona and I felt bits of pain,” he said. “I finally got over the feeling, then played Valencia and got suspended.

Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid celebrates after the LaLiga EA Sports match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys on October 28, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain
Bellingham has scored 22 goals for club and country this season - Getty Images/Eric Alonso

“It’s affected my rhythm, early in season I felt clear what I was doing. But in last games my role has changed, maybe I lose that effectiveness but I have to regain it. I’m happy to take the criticism on the chin.

“It is not scoring that makes me anxious, it is when we don’t win. My game is more than goals, it’s part of my game to add a wide range of skills, I love scoring goals and I understand I can affect the game in different ways, I didn’t expect to score this many goals but I want to score more. People were asking me when I joined and I just wanted one – but I’m up to 20 now and hopefully I can get more before the end of the season.”

He may have only been at Real for 10 months but he knows about the hurt of losing to City 4-0 last season, with the Spaniards looking to put that evening right this time around.

“I spoke to some of the lads who played last year, all have similar feelings, it wasn’t nice,” Bellingham said. “I’ve been on the end of big losses. You have to regulate that emotion and it’s a new game, don’t start 4-0 down, have to be brave and come out to play.

“Everyone has spoken about them, treble winners, and they are an amazing team but that’s the impression from the outside. I’m not a gambler, I’ve never been to a bookies so I don’t know about betting favourites and things like that. But we are Real Madrid, we’re a pretty good team ourselves and we have some brilliant players, internally we are confident and we trust what we have in the dressing room.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.