I was umming and arring about whether to watch England v Iran yesterday. I had stuff to get on with midday, and if Trent Alexander-Arnold wasn’t going to go play in the easiest Group Match, he likely won’t be involved all tournament.
Still, despite my various objections to this odd version of the competition I used to love so much as a kid, I tuned in.
England were good, to be fair. Iran are not an impressive side, but England teams of yesteryear have often struggled against low-blocks in the heat. Remember that 0-0 draw against Algeria in 2010?
But really, it was the two midfielders I focussed upon.
I’ve actually heard more about Jude Bellingham than I’ve seen him. Any Liverpool fan who says they tune in religiously to every Borussia Dortmund game is exaggerating, so the most we’d have got of him is Champions League matches, highlights and England games. He’s been superb in Europe’s biggest club competition, but for his country, hadn’t set the world alight, until yesterday.
His goal was a carbon-copy of Steven Gerrard’s header against AC Milan in 2005 and his ability to attack and defend in equal measure epitomised our former captain, too.
I’m not exactly sure yet what Bellingham is. An attacking midfielder? Well, he’s scored nine goals this season – more than most strikers. But he’s not a no.10, as he offers too much physically and in defence. In truth, he’s likely the perfect potential no.8. Up and down the field, breaking up play, making things happen and getting into the box in equal measure. His composure and speaking skills intimate that he’ll one day be a terrific leader as well, if he isn’t already.
Decal Rice is more definable. He’s a defensive midfield orchestrator, and a very, very good one. He isn’t fast, but he’s strong and works tirelessly. His reading of the game is brilliant and his contribution in the buildup is better than Fabinho’s for example, although he lacks the Brazilian’s height so in theory wouldn’t be as good in the air.
Throwing hypothetical numbers out there, Bellingham and Rice would cost close to £200m as a combination for any suitor.
Bellingham will leave in 2023 and Liverpool are definitely in the running, although we’ll likely be up against all the Big Boys for his signature. Hopefully Jan Aage Fjortfot’s hunch is right and we might have an advantage on our competitors…
Re: Jude Bellingham
Dortmund- boss Watzke doesn’t want to sell him to “those kind of clubs”. Meaning “state-clubs”.
His mate Klopp is at Liverpool. But Team Bellingham will make their own analysis
— Jan Aage Fjørtoft 🏳️🌈 🇳🇴 💛💙 (@JanAageFjortoft) November 21, 2022
West Ham naturally want to keep Rice, but the truth is, he’s outgrown them. What’s more, he’ll only have one year left on his contract at the end of this season and he’s not going to put pen to paper and scupper his chances of moving to an elite club.
Football Insider confirm our interest in the 23-year-old, so with Bellingham already being our well-established no.1 target, it looks like we might go for both.
It’s been so long since we’ve invested in the midfield, big money is required to be spent.
Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and likely James Milner will leave in 2023 on the expiration of their deals. That’s three bodies we need to replace – especially with Thiago and Jordan Henderson well into their thirties and Fabinho not far behind them.
And if Bellingham and Rice prove unattainable, which is very possible – and right now I’d take just one of them if they were offered – we still need players with their attributes.
A reliable, consistent, metronomical midfielder with defensive and tactical nous, like Rice.
And a box-to-box, physical, livewire with technical skill and a goalscoring threat, like Jude.
Qatar were diabolical, but Ecuador and Brighton’s Moises Caicedo ticks a lot of these boxes, too and has also been good in this World Cup.
Due to us allowing the midfield to grow old together, we need at least two and probably three top-level players in the next few windows. It would be smart for us to begin in January to take some pressure off the summer.
Rice and Bellingham would be sensational business, but although they tick all the boxes, it’s difficult to see FSG, whose aim is to sell the club, negotiating both these mega-deals on their way out.