First it was Jadon Sancho, and now Borussia Dortmund need to keep their guard up to hang on to another rising England star in Jude Bellingham over the next 12 months.
After losing their flying winger to Manchester United for £73million this summer, the German club should be braced for more English approaches for 18-year-old midfielder Bellingham.
Reports this week have claimed that Liverpool are willing to stump up £80m for the England international, who recently starred in the Three Lions’ 4-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Andorra at Wembley.
The Premier League’s elite are reportedly keen on signing Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham (right)
The England international midfielder would have no shortage of options if he moved on soon
That interest from Jurgen Klopp’s side goes alongside previous reported approaches from Chelsea and Manchester United regarding Bellingham.
With this saga unlikely to die down soon, Sportsmail looks at where Bellingham would fit in best should he make a move to the Premier League or another of Europe’s elite clubs…
Let’s start where all the reports are leading at the moment – and Liverpool could really do with a marquee signing, let alone a midfielder.
The Reds opted not to spend big in the transfer market this summer, unlike the rest of their title rivals, with RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate the only major incoming into Klopp’s squad this summer at £36m.
That move was particularly surprising given they lost Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer in June, with the Dutch international now at Paris Saint-Germain.
Jurgen Klopp’s (right) Liverpool opted not to sign a midfielder due to Harvey Elliott’s (left) rise
Instead of looking for external solutions to Wijnaldum’s departure, Klopp has placed his faith in teenager Harvey Elliott – traditionally a wide player but being used in a midfield three this season – after the 18-year-old came back from a good loan at Blackburn last season.
Whether Elliott can be trusted in that role for an entire season is yet to be seen, but Klopp could resolve a short-term problem with a long-term solution should the club splash out on Bellingham.
There is also a slight age problem in the Liverpool midfield, as many of Klopp’s central options are aged 30 or above. James Milner is winding down at 35, Jordan Henderson is 31 yet signed a long-term deal and Thiago Alcantara, whose Anfield career is yet to take off, reached 30 earlier this year.
Klopp’s midfield is ageing with the likes of Thiago Alcantara (left) and James Milner (right)
That makes Fabinho, 27, injury-prone Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 28, and the inconsistent Naby Keita, 26, the younger options in midifeld, with 20-year-old Curtis Jones currently out of favour at Anfield.
Signing Bellingham would give Klopp’s Reds a long-term lynchpin in the middle of the park – and a move to Anfield would certainly suit the young midfielder given his previous comments about club.
When the Dortmund star was questioned in a FA video over which player he would loved to have swapped shirts with in their careers – there was only one answer.
Bellingham is a fan of Steven Gerrard and could become Jordan Henderson’s (right) successor
‘Stevie G, easily to be fair,’ he said. ‘In fact, no it is not easy, I think him or (Wayne) Rooney definitely close.
‘But I think I would go Gerrard, though. The No 8, similar position to me, so yeah, I would probably go with him.’
If Bellingham can get anywhere close to Liverpool legend Gerrard’s levels, then he would be a household name not only in the red half of Merseyside but all over the world.
Liverpool are not the only club to have expressed an interest in Bellingham.
Chelsea have been reportedly knocking on Dortmund’s door about the availability of the England international all throughout the year. The Blues have been looking for a midfielder themselves for some time.
Declan Rice has been a long-term target, while the club eventually settled on Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez on deadline day, but a loan with an option-to-buy clause implies there is not a complete faith in the Spanish midfielder.
Thomas Tuchel’s (above) Chelsea have also been linked with Bellingham over recent months
That is no real surprise, given the options Chelsea already have at Stamford Bridge. N’Golo Kante and Jorginho were both shortlisted for the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year last month, which the latter ended up winning, while Mason Mount can play in that deeper midfield role like he often does for England.
There are plenty of experienced back-up options there too. Mateo Kovacic is closing in on 150 appearances for the Blues, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is still an England international, despite not being in the international picture for a couple of years.
Despite the healthy competition in midfield, there could be space for Bellingham at Chelsea from next summer. Kante, who will turn 31 next March, has often been linked with a move away from west London in recent years, while Jorginho’s agent came out recently claiming his client is eyeing up a return to Italy soon.
Chelsea have big midfield competition including Mason Mount (left) and N’Golo Kante (right)
Bellingham also has a good relationship with some of the Chelsea players from England duty, with defender Reece James claiming he took the Dortmund man under his wing during Euro 2020.
‘He is very young but a very good footballer, I look after him,’ James said on the Lion’s Den YouTube page.
‘He is still so young but he has a lot to learn so I try and help him where I can.
‘He is always poking me and hitting me, he’s just so stupid and I will turn around and get so close to touching him but I never get around to it.’
Bellingham (right) is very close to some of Chelsea’s England stars including Reece James (left)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side already have Sancho but could use those links with Dortmund to steal a march in the race for Bellingham this coming year.
The Red Devils are reportedly also eyeing up the England international’s situation after a busy transfer window just gone for the Premier League title hopefuls.
Central midfield was one of the few outfield positions that Solskjaer and the United hierarchy did not strengthen over the summer. Raphael Varane has come in to boost the defence, Sancho will improve the club’s wide options while Cristiano Ronaldo will go front and centre in terms of attacking influence.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United are another team who could make Bellingham move
There are still question marks over the future of United’s midfield. Paul Pogba is a major doubt with his contract up at the end of the season, after a saga lasting three years regarding whether he actually wants to stay at Old Trafford.
Donny van de Beek and Nemanja Matic are unfancied by Solskjaer and the former was nearly sent out on loan to Everton on deadline day, while Scott McTominay is the only reliable option United have in the middle of the park.
The other midfield contender is Brazilian midfielder Fred, who was slammed by United legend Rio Ferdinand last month for being too rash, and also saying that the Red Devils need a better option in the heart of their team.
Speaking about the Brazilian, Ferdinand said: ‘He gets off the leash, goes and smells trouble and flies out sometimes. That’s not necessarily the best way to put out that (dangerous) situation.
There are doubts over Paul Pogba’s (left) future at Old Trafford and over Fred’s (right) reliability
‘In that role, for me, you need someone who can orchestrate – not only with the ball, I’m talking without the ball. He can position himself to stop trouble before it comes.
‘A (Michael) Carrick, a (Sergio) Busquets, Fernandinho does it. People who can sit in their position. You haven’t got to fly everywhere at 100mph, but they’re in a position to stop the ball getting into these danger areas – they’re an obstacle.’
The arrival of Bellingham at Old Trafford would coincide with Solskjaer’s recent desire to buy younger players in recent windows – with the exception of the experienced Ronaldo and Varane this summer.
AND WHAT ABOUT BAYERN MUNICH?
When it comes to buying star players at German clubs, never rule out Bayern Munich from the picture. The Bundesliga champions have a long track history of pinching the best players from their rivals.
Dortmund know that too well from the purchases of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze and Mats Hummels over the years. More recently, RB Leipzig have been the victim of Bayern’s transfer muscle, with Dayot Upamecano, Marcel Sabitzer and head coach Julian Nagelsmann all making the Allianz switch this summer.
Bellingham (right) could fit in at Bayern Munich but who have Joshua Kimmich (left)
The 18-year-old could join Robert Lewandowski (left) in swapping Dortmund for Bayern
So Bellingham may find out that his future is with the side that has won nine German top-flight titles in a row, which would certainly help his experience of winning the biggest trophies.
Making a name for himself at Bayern would be rather difficult, given the likes of Sabitzer, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso are all in their prime years.
Meanwhile, Bayern already have their up-and-coming midfielder in Michael Cuisance, who looks like he could get chances this season at the German club after his loan spell at Marseille last term.
However, Bellingham is Dortmund’s best midfield player so Bayern Munich will likely be sniffing around. The question is, can the German champions guarantee him game time?