Premier League English

Jude Bellingham the next perfect Pep Guardiola transfer target next summer?

A distinctively superb individual performance snazzily stole the show from Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne – despite the latter being named as the Player of the Match in City’s 2-1 defeat of Borussia Dortmund – in the Champions League on Wednesday, and this might have confirmed in Pep Guardiola’s ever-perceptive and far-reaching football mind who to target in the next transfer window.

For once De Bruyne probably didn’t deserve the Player of the Match bestowed on him by UEFA and this was not because the Belgian was bad per se, only that he has been performing a tad below his usual high levels in recent matches.

Noticeably also for large parts of the match City were not their usual super efficient selves whilst Dortmund were excellent by comparison. What had clearly burst through as a dominant factor in the German side’s display was Jude Bellingham; the teenage England midfielder was in scintillating form, surpassing even his former teammate Haaland.

The 19-year-old was sizzling when he scored Dortmund’s goal early in the second half, which tells only half the story of his performance at the supposedly intimidating Etihad Stadium, yet he was not even a bit awed by it neither the stadium nor the team. His Tenacious, dynamic and brazenly fearless – his qualities were on full display for all to marvel at, while the stats comprising four passes into the final third, four ball recoveries and three duels won were ample demonstration of pretty much all that a top-flight midfielder needs to be capable of.

Guardiola for one certainly appreciated the brilliance of Bellingham’s performance, lavishing praise on the lad during his post-match press conference.

“I was impressed three seasons ago when he [Bellingham] was 17, he is able to defensively follow Gundogan or Kevin [de Bruyne] in the pockets, in transition he is fast.

“He is an exceptional player. I think everyone knows it, not just because the manager of City tells you. Everybody knows it.”

City’s main focus in this summer’s transfer market was clearly in attack – having won the race to sign goalscoring wizard Haaland – while they shored up the defence with Manuel Akanji and Sergio Gomez.

They are expected to invest in the midfield next summer as Ilkay Gundogan’s current contract is set to expire at the end of the season and De Bruyne is also not getting any younger. As things go, Bellingham could be the ideal signing. Former teammate Akanji certainly seemed to think a move for his former teammate could be a real possibility.

“He’s a great player,” Akanji said.

“He’s 19. He made a big step from first to second year. He keeps working hard. I think next year we’re going to see a big move out of him.”

Now it’s all up to the master tactician Guardiola to plot the next move.