Gareth Bale feels Jude Bellingham is major contender for Ballon d’Or

The England midfielder is aiming to cap an amazing season with Champions League and Euro 2024 glory.

Phil Blanche
Tuesday 21 May 2024 15:24 BST
Gareth Bale believes England’s Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham has a strong case to win the Ballon d’Or this year (PA)
Gareth Bale believes England’s Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham has a strong case to win the Ballon d’Or this year (PA)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Gareth Bale believes Jude Bellingham would be in a strong position to win the Ballon d’Or by inspiring England to Euro 2024 glory.

No Englishman has won the honour as best player in the world since Michael Owen’s success in 2001, but Bellingham’s remarkable impact at Bale’s former club Real Madrid has put him top of the contenders alongside club colleague Vinicius Junior.

Bellingham has scored 23 goals in helping Real to LaLiga title success and the Champions League final, and the 20-year-old midfielder is set to play a major role for England in Germany this summer.

“Of course,” Bale replied when asked by the PA news agency if Bellingham was in the running to be named the world’s best player later this year.

“Having a major international tournament is going to play a big part in winning that trophy. The Copa America is on as well, so I guess there’s a lot to play for (between Bellingham and Vinicius) because winning the Ballon d’Or you need to win team trophies.

“If there’s an international tournament you have to provide on that stage as well, like (Lionel) Messi did a couple of years ago.

“Obviously there’s a lot to prove, but he’s done a lot of the hard work already.”

Bellingham’s scoring exploits since his move from Borussia Dortmund last summer include two late Clasico winners against Barcelona, as well as four Champions League goals.

Real are aiming to win Europe’s biggest prize for the 15th time against Dortmund on June 1, when Bale – a five-time winner in the competition during his time in Spain – will be among the Wembley crowd.

“I don’t think anyone expected it,” Bale said of Bellingham’s scoring output, speaking at a Mastercard event in London to launch ‘The Pledge Ball’, a football made from recycled boots and engraved with pledges by the football community to promote sustainability ahead of the Champions League final.

“His record in the past didn’t suggest he could score that many goals, but he’s probably playing in a more advanced role in Madrid and the team is a lot younger.

“The environment is obviously more comfortable. He’s slotted in really well and had a fantastic first season.

“He’s won the league, and to be able to win a Champions League in your first season – obviously from my personal experience it is a great thing to have – gives you that platform to keep pushing on from there.

“It’s a very nice club to be at, and hopefully they can get another win and keep cementing their title as the kings of Europe.

“To keep doing it year in and year out I feel is a special skill, especially in that competition.

“Even if we’re getting beaten we find a way to win. From being inside that dressing room, it’s the drive and determination to not accepting a loss is what keeps them going – and the fans keep pushing you forward.”

Bale has also been thrilled that Spurs, whom he left for Real in 2013 and returned to on loan for the 2019-20 season, have rediscovered the “Tottenham way” under Ange Postecoglou.

Spurs missed out on Champions League football next season after a fifth-placed finish in the Premier League, but the former Wales star believes exciting times lie ahead for his old club.

He said: “I think they’ve had a very successful season. The biggest problem was that they started so well and the expectation went too much and too soon. It was a bit unfair.

“Ange has done an incredible job. Losing Harry (Kane) was going to be a massive loss, the amount of goals you lose.

“So to be able to finish higher than in previous seasons speaks massive volumes of how well the manager has done. He has also got them playing the Tottenham way.

“I went back again this season and it was very enjoyable to watch. Ange is definitely the right man for the job.

“If they can have a great transfer window this summer, which I’m sure they will, they’ll be in a better place next season.”

:: Mastercard has worked with Gareth Bale to launch ‘The Pledge Ball’, a football made from recycled boots and engraved with pledges by the football community to inspire collective action on sustainability ahead of the UEFA Champions League final on June 1. The ball features pledges from fans, clubs, players, sponsors, charities, supporter groups and UEFA Champions League great Bale.

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