Keep your filthy paws off him, Daniel Levy: Tottenham won’t be the last club to chase Sunderland starlet Jobe
Jobe Bellingham is reportedly on the radar of Tottenham and Real Madrid.
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Keep your filthy paws off him! We knew this day would come - partially because it has already happened once before - but I don’t think any of us expected it to be dropped on us, like a baby grand from an upstairs window, quite so soon. About a month ago, one Sunday evening, some time during the Strictly Come Dancing results show, Spanish outlet El Nacional published a report claiming that Real Madrid, with their pristine white jerseys and golden reputation, had sent scouts to watch Sunderland midfielder Jobe Bellingham while he was away on international duty with England’s U19s recently. Honestly, who could really blame them?
And now, according to a fresh update from Football Insider, it would appear that Tottenham Hotspur are also monitoring the prodigious talent. It is claimed that the Premier League high-flyers are 'keeping close tabs' on the 18-year-old and have regularly had representatives planted in the stands to eyeball him this season. The vultures, it would appear, are beginning to circle rather rapidly.
Historically, it has been a rarity for the Black Cats to be in possession of an asset worthy of attention from some of the most prestigious clubs in world football, but it is rarer still that they have employed such a player while residing in the shady undergrowth of the Football League. Then again, nothing about Jobe (as he likes to be called, opting for a mono-monikered utterance in the vein of Voltaire or Seal) comes with a precedent on Wearside.
Perhaps the biggest compliment you can pay the young man is that it is very easy to forget just how sickeningly youthful he is. To watch Jobe is to witness a talent far beyond his teenage years, and one that is progressing at an absurdly rapid rate. When he signed for Sunderland from his boyhood Birmingham City over the summer, there were questions as to where exactly he would slot into Tony Mowbray’s plans; was this an acquisition for the here and now, or one designed to ignite in years to come? The manner in which Jobe has proceeded to make any and all of those doubts look resoundingly foolish is testament to the immensity of his pedigree and potential.
Taking all of that into account, it is not wholly unnatural for a side of Real Madrid’s gargantuan stature, for instance, to be aware of his development, but it goes without saying that their interest will almost certainly have been intensified by the impact that Jobe’s older brother, Jude, has had in the Spanish capital ever since he completed a big money transfer from Borussia Dortmund in June. At 20 years of age, he has scored 13 goals in his first 14 outings for the club, and has assisted three more just for the hell of it. He is already an integral presence in Gareth Southgate’s simmering England project, and if he continues on his current trajectory, it won’t be long before he is earnestly included in conversations pertaining to the Ballon d’Or.
Nobody of sound mind would suggest that Jobe is anywhere near that level just yet - and in truth, he might never get there - but there are unquestionable parallels between him and his sibling; the precocious forays into the senior game, the the influential performances for the Young Lions, the sudden interest from a continental powerhouse. You can understand why, if nothing else, Real might be inspired to enact a family reunion of sorts.
Of course, for the time being - and perhaps forever - Jobe would remain the lesser partner; the Luigi to Jude’s Mario, the Grant to his Phil. But in the right environment, and with the right support, there is no reason to believe that the world cannot be his oyster. Real have cottoned on to this, and have already begun to unfurl their spindly tendrils, but it was presumably only a matter of time before others followed their lead.
Indeed, Tottenham seemingly have, and to that end, they may even represent a better option for the midfielder. Just as his sibling used Dortmund as an auspicious stepping stone to megastardom, could the Sunderland wunderkind do likewise with Spurs? Certainly, to look at Ange Postecoglou's revived project, bristling with young talent and attacking intent, it is not difficult to imagine how a player of Jobe's overt promise could be eased seamlessly in to their ever-burgeoning mission statement.
For Sunderland, that could well be a problem, if not an entirely expected one. First El Nacional’s report detailed a potentially irresistible interest in Jobe, and then Football Insider went and cranked the anxiety dial up a few notches. These may well be the first murmurs we hear about Bellingham's long-term future on Wearside, but make no mistake, by no means will they be the last.