Advertisement

Jude Bellingham’s premature celebration shows moment he knew Champions League trophy was his

Vinicius Junior scores the winner as Bellingham prepares to celebrate
The moment Jude knew he was a Champions League winner - Neil Hall/Shutterstock

Jude Bellingham has spent the past 11 months watching Vinicius Jr receive the ball on the left side of the final third, surging towards goal like a shark through water. Bellingham has seen hundreds of times what Vinicius can do, in training and in matches, and he evidently knew what would happen from the moment he played his pass to the Brazilian.

And so Bellingham raised both arms in celebration, three seconds before Vinicius had put the ball in the net. As the rest of Wembley waited in nervous anticipation to see what Vinicius might do with his big chance, Bellingham was already luxuriating in the moment that sealed yet another Champions League triumph for Real Madrid.

For Bellingham, this was the moment it all came together, at last, on the night. Until then, this most talented of English footballers had endured an unexpectedly disappointing evening. He was barely involved in the first half, and then unusually wasteful in the second. But he still left Wembley with a crucial assist, and with a winner’s medal around his neck.

Champions League glory, aged 20. No wonder Bellingham was emotional at the end, when he struggled to hold back tears. These are the moments that vindicate not just a season’s work, but also a lifetime of dedication as a boy, teenager and young adult. Sometimes it all leads to one split-second on a football pitch, to one pass and one opportunity for a Brazilian lad who was born in Rio de Janeiro and now plays around 10 yards to your left.

The Bellingham family — including brother Jobe, of Sunderland — had arrived at Wembley five hours before kick-off. Presumably they, like Jude, simply wanted to soak it all up, to appreciate the magnitude of what they have achieved as a family.

“I have always dreamed of playing in these games,” Bellingham said. “You go through life and there are so many people who say you can’t do things. I was alright until I saw my mum and dad’s faces. The amount of nights they could have been home but they were doing trips at 11 and 12 at night to take me to football. My little brother is there and I’m trying to be a role model for him. I cannot put it into words. The best night of my life. I couldn’t have dreamed it much better than this. I can’t believe it.”

There are, of course, many worlds left for Bellingham to conquer. There is little to suggest that this is a footballer who might now struggle for motivation, having won the biggest club prize of all. It is perhaps more likely that he will privately be irritated at his performance on the night.

Next up for Bellingham? The European Championship. The best players find winning to be an addictive feeling, and this experience will surely only help him — and his country — going forward. This, clearly, is just the start.

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.