Jude Bellingham once turned down a meeting with Manchester United at the age of just 16, his former manager at Birmingham City has revealed.
Bellingham has become one of the most coveted midfielders in the world in recent years and will likely become the most expensive English player of all time when he eventually leaves current club Borussia Dortmund for his next challenge – either this year or next year.
Real Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester City are all vying for his signature and, as 90min has previously reported, all three are confident about the respective pitches they have presented to the player and his representatives.
Dortmund are also keen to get Bellingham, who has been considering his options for some time with plans to make a decision before the end of the season, to stay. The Bundesliga would listen to offers this year if the players decides he wants a new challenge now, but are preparing a contract that would make their highest paid player ever – that deal would also include a 2024 release clause.
But things could already have been so different in Bellingham’s fledgling career had he made other choices when deciding where to go from boyhood club Birmingham in 2020.
Bellingham was courted by Manchester United at the time, but ex-Birmingham boss Pep Clotet has explained that even after being given permission by the Blues hierarchy to attend a meeting with the Red Devils, the youngster refused to skip training to go.
“One day, the CEO said, ‘Jude isn’t going to be here today, because we’ve allowed him to go to a meeting with Manchester United’,” Clotet told FourFourTwo.
“But Jude ended up refusing it so that he didn’t miss training. He was very clear to me that his priority would be a club who offered him a way to continue his development.”
Bellingham eventually did meet with United and was given a guided tour of the club’s Carrington training ground by Sir Alex Ferguson, Eric Cantona and Bryan Robson – the latter later said of what happened: “After that meeting we thought he was coming to us.”
But Dortmund, in the way they had already done with Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, were able to offer more meaningful first-team opportunities much sooner and that appears to have been what swung it for Bellingham at that stage of his development, signing less than a month after turning 17.
“He wasn’t thinking about money,” Clotet added. “Dortmund offered him a way to bed himself into the Bundesliga and play in Europe. [Birmingham] did a brilliant negotiation and it was win-win for all parties.”