Jude Bellingham appeared to have foreknowledge. He had just successfully scored his first goal in the clásico, a remarkable kick reminiscent of Roy of the Rovers or Hot-Shot Hamish, forcefully smashing the ball into the net from 28 yards. However, he did not perform his usual celebratory routine. Instead, there was a slight pull at the Real Madrid emblem on his shirt, indicating a hint of frustration, but no smile or outstretched arms. This gesture, which has already become iconic after being performed 11 times at the Cathedral and other stadiums, was absent this time. Despite the grandeur of the occasion and the absurdity of it all, Bellingham still had unfinished business on this immense stage.
I am not sure yet, but it could be possible. There is always the opportunity for more, even in moments when time seems to be slipping away. If Madrid’s supporters had missed the celebration then, with Bellingham’s impressive performance, there would be another chance to do it better. Both Bellingham and Antonio Rüdiger would strive to make it happen.
During his debut match against Barcelona, Bellingham scored the equalizing goal in the 68th minute, making the score 1-1. On the Madrid bench, Nacho Fernández’s expression showed surprise and excitement at the amazing goal. When Bellingham scored again in the 92nd minute to win the game, Nacho joined in on the celebration and ran towards the Englishman with his teammates. Bellingham’s arms were wide open as he acknowledged the incredible moment. Rüdiger, who was behind him, shouted for him to do it again for the fans. After they finished celebrating, Bellingham scored once more, securing the team’s victory and top spot in the standings.
He stood in front of the Montjuïc stand, resembling both a Gladiator and Christ the Redeemer. It may sound absurd, but that’s exactly what he looked like. “I just called home,” Bellingham shared later. “It was difficult to hear them over the noise, but I couldn’t help but feel emotional thinking about all those times I watched this game on the couch with my brother and parents. I told them it was my turn to experience it and make an impact.”
Some impression. Montjuïc hadn’t seen an English performance like this since Sally Gunnell was going for gold. This fixture may never have done. Gary Lineker scored a hat-trick against Real Madrid. David Beckham’s first clásico made a hero of him. Steve McManaman scored at the Camp Nou, and in a European Cup semi-final. Laurie Cunningham was handed a standing ovation, by Barcelona’s fans. Michael Owen too scored in a clasico, Barcelona beaten at the Bernabéu. But this? This was something else, is something else.
The famous rivalry known as the clásico has taken on many forms over the years, but it has never been compared to the Beatles versus the Stones. In this particular match, Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood were seated in the directors’ box and Barcelona sported the Stones’ iconic tongue logo on their jerseys – a limited edition item available for purchase at €399 (£348), or €2,999 (£2,620) for a version signed by both the men’s and women’s teams. On the opposing side was the man who has the Bernabéu stadium singing along to Hey Jude. This was not just any clásico; it was deemed the rock’n’roll showdown, a battle of the bands. As much as this column wanted to join in on the fun, it refrained from doing so and instead gave up on trying to reference a long list of songs that had been prepared for this occasion, ultimately accepting that it couldn’t escape its own musical preferences.
The headline in AS announced “Stones 1, Beatles 2”. On the front of Marca, it was reported that “Jude sticks out his tongue”. Many others also commented on how Barcelona was unable to achieve satisfaction. Puns related to singing were prevalent, with the player providing both the “music and lyrics” and winning the game “a cappella” (whatever that means). They also “danced to Bellingham’s beat”. Real Madrid’s X account declared that “The Beatles have always been our favorite group”. The player shared a cartoon of himself, Federico Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga, and Aurélien Tchouaméni walking across Abbey Road.
The front page of AS declared that Lord Bellingham held a prominent position. In other sources, he was referred to as “Sir Bellingham” and was seen as the leader of the entire British Empire, which some found to be harsh. Some even went as far as to call him a dictator, imposing his will on others. He was also viewed as Madrid’s satanic majesty. However, he was also seen as their savior, rescuing them once again. This game is not just one match, but all of them. Many agree that he is currently in the best form of any footballer in the world, including some at Barcelona who may not openly admit it.
Bellingham expressed that all is going well.
Despite appearances, this was not an easy game for the players involved. Bellingham and Gavi engaged in a highly enjoyable battle, demonstrating mutual admiration throughout. However, Bellingham admitted that neither he nor his teammates were at their best. Nevertheless, he managed to score an impressive equalizer from outside the area, something he had been working on in recent weeks. He then went on to score the winning goal in the dying minutes of the game, which he admits can be emotionally taxing but is something he loves about the sport. The clock showed 91 minutes and 11 seconds when he scored, slipping the ball through the legs of Marc-André ter Stegen. Although cameras caught Pedri, who was injured, commenting on Bellingham’s luck, it seems that this type of last-minute victory has become a regular occurrence for him. In previous games, he scored the winning goals in the 94th and 95th minutes against Union Berlin and Getafe, respectively.
Bellingham has analyzed those movements. The young player who previously wore the number 22 at Birmingham due to his versatility as a number 4, 8, and 10, now wears No 5 and has taken on the role of a false 9 in the absence of Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé. Ancelotti showed him videos of his performances at Dortmund when he played closest to the opponent’s goal, and even he is surprised by how successful he has been. Last Saturday, Ancelotti stated that Bellingham could easily score 20 or 25 goals this season, but that now seems like a modest prediction. He has already scored 10 goals in 10 league games and one goal in each of his three Champions League games, which is just one goal short of his total from last season. Luka Modric expressed his pride in Bellingham’s unexpected goal-scoring abilities.
He is crucial to the team’s success. Bellingham has scored 13 out of Madrid’s 29 goals, resulting in seven of their 12 wins. He does not inflate his statistics or take wild shots. Out of 19 attempts, only one of his 10 league goals could be considered unimportant – the third goal in a 3-0 victory against Girona – and this was only because he had previously provided a brilliant assist for the first goal. In his debut game, he scored the second goal to secure a win at San Mames. When the team was trailing at Almería, he scored both the equalizer and the winning goal. He also scored the only goal in an 81st minute victory against Celta, as well as the first and second goals against Osasuna. In Europe, he scored the second goal in a 2-1 win against Braga, the winning goal against Berlin, and put them ahead 2-1 in a 3-2 victory against Napoli. That night, he was compared to Diego Maradona.
Bellingham expressed hesitation, stating “That seems like a lot.” However, given the exceptional quality of the goal and its location, it was inevitable. This was just one of many flattering comparisons he had received. He had been compared to renowned players such as Raúl, Zidane, and Ronaldo. He had also playfully been likened to Jermaine Defoe, although Bellingham jokingly refers to him as Joselu or Peter Crouch. Some have even compared him to Alfredo Di Stéfano, the player who forever changed the history of Madrid with his impressive abilities on the field. As Ramon Besa wrote in El País, he is “a standout performer capable of leading the entire team.”
As the leading scorer in La Liga before the clásico, he not only had three assists but also had the most successful duels – now, Gavi is at the top. He is also the most frequently fouled player in Spain, and this is no coincidence. In Saturday’s game, he made the final touch with a defensive header. It’s not just about his goals; it’s his entire presence, his strong personality, and his confidence. As Ancelotti has said, he shows leadership at just 20 years old. Others look up to him and follow his lead. Even Raúl, who has seen it all, was impressed before Gavi had even played a match. This was evident in his debut and in his symbolic celebration: he is the master of his domain. It is also evident in his performances on the field; he plays with no nerves, as if it’s just a game – one that he is very, very good at.
Bellingham, oh my goodness. It’s almost unbelievable and it’s not just the usual suspects saying this, it’s footballers. Even at Real Madrid. They’re looking at him, comparing him to the best, and they’re shocked by what they see every day. “Our fans were used to Cristiano Ronaldo, now they have Jude,” Vinícius Júnior stated. “He’s only just arrived but it feels like he’s been here forever. It’s not a coincidence: he’s a great guy and an exceptional talent,” Modric added. Just take a look at their tweets: “Truly unique” – David Alaba. “HIM” – Thibaut Courtois. “The young one” – Brahim. And the exploding head emojis from Rodrygo.
As Bellingham celebrated with his teammates and fans after his first clásico, Modric approached him with a big smile and exclaimed, “What a signing!” Ancelotti praised him as a star who has joined the team, while Rüdiger encouraged him to continue his success.