A former Birmingham City chief has provided an insight into the talks between Jude Bellingham and Manchester United, as the Red Devils pushed hard to sign him before he headed to Borussia Dortmund.
Bellingham came through the Birmingham academy before making his first-team debut in August 2019. At the age of just 16 years and 38 days, he became Birmingham’s youngest ever player, while he also broke their record for the youngest goalscorer later that month.
The wonderkid soon established himself as an important part of the Birmingham starting eleven, as well as one of the most exciting young players in the country. In January 2020, several clubs made approaches to see if they could sign Bellingham, and it was reported that Man Utd even submitted a £20million offer.
However, Bellingham finished the season at Birmingham before going on to join Dortmund in July 2020. Birmingham even retired his number 22 shirt, as they predicted he would go on to become a world-class star.
At the time, the West Midlands outfit received criticism for that decision, but they have been proven right. Bellingham shone for Dortmund and earned a big-money switch to Real Madrid over the summer, after also being courted by English giants Liverpool and Manchester City.
The Stourbridge-born ace, who is now 20, has incredibly managed 11 goals in his first 12 matches for Madrid, while also establishing himself as one of England’s key players.
However, things could have been far different for Bellingham. Andres Manzano, who was Birmingham’s sporting adviser while Bellingham was at the club, has revealed that Man Utd were deep in negotiations to take the player to Old Trafford.
Manzano has even stated that it ‘looked very good’ for Bellingham to join Man Utd, only for the player’s camp to reject them after hearing Dortmund’s pitch.
Jude Bellingham to Man Utd ‘looked good’
In an interview with Spanish newspaper Sport, Manzano began by saying how impressed he was when watching Bellingham for the first time.
“We went to watch [an] U23 game that was playing against a senior team. I remember that, after 10 minutes, I asked for the first time how old the number seven was. They told me he was from 2003,” he said.
“I thought he couldn’t be and I was shocked. I was embarrassed to ask again for fear that they would think I didn’t understand English, but I ended up doing it. The director of the academy repeated that he was from 2003. So, I thought that that player was of another level.”
Manzano continued: “From the club, I will not deceive you, it looked good that he would go to Manchester because in the end it is a closer club and you could have a series of exchanges, but he and the family decided that the best option was Borussia Dortmund. And I thought he was right.”
As Manzano points out, Bellingham made the correct decision when heading to Germany. Dortmund are fantastic at developing young players, and they helped Bellingham to improve his game on several fronts.
Playing in the Bundesliga also allowed Bellingham to shine away from the scrutiny of the English media.
Man Utd chiefs will have been incredibly frustrated when losing out on Bellingham. Arguably the biggest problem of Erik ten Hag’s era so far has been the midfield, even after the signings of players such as Casemiro, Mason Mount and Sofyan Amrabat.
Bellingham could have added far more quality and steel to that midfield. He would also have provided more goals than Scott McTominay, who surprisingly appears to be Man Utd’s biggest goal threat at this moment in time.