Birmingham City have decided to retire the number 22 shirt of outgoing teenager Jude Bellingham.
Bellingham’s final appearance for his boyhood club ended in a 3-1 defeat to Derby, and came just days after he finalised a move to Borussia Dortmund in a deal which sees him become the most expensive 17-year-old in football history.
It has been a rapid rise for the midfielder, who in August 2019 became Birmingham’s youngest ever player, aged 16 years and 38 days, and has always had the number 22 on the back of his shirt.
The club says it is “fitting” to retire the number in recognition of Bellingham’s qualities, in the hope the gesture can inspire the next generation of talent at St Andrew’s.
“In such a remarkably short space of time Jude has become an iconic figure at Blues, showing what can be achieved through talent, hard work and dedication,” Birmingham City said.
“His caring, humble and engaging off-the-field demeanour has also made him such an impressive role model.
“The 22 shirt has become synonymous with Jude, his rise to the first team aged just 16 years and 38 days and these qualities.
“And as such the club have decided it would be fitting to retire this number, to remember one of our own and to inspire others.”
The agreed fee is thought to be a guaranteed £25m up front. One of the key factors in the negotiations was that Birmingham wanted more cash up front. The deal comes with an extra £1m of almost guaranteed money, and “several millions more” depending on appearances, achievements and milestones.
Bellingham is still only on a schoolboy contract with the Championship club and could in theory sign a professional contract with any other club, and the fee be decided by tribunal. However, Birmingham had a professional contract ready for the 17-year-old to sign, and an agreement with Bellingham and his family – with whom they have a good relationship with – that they would sign, hence why a transfer fee is required to attain his services.
A lot of people will be asking why the Birmingham youngster has turned down Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Chelsea to follow in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho and sign for the Bundesliga club.
Unlike their competitors, Dortmund offer that most precious of commodities – guaranteed game time.
They do not offer 10-12 league games a season and a place on the bench in the Champions League. They offer 30 league games and a starting XI shirt in Europe. In terms of time on the pitch, the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid simply cannot compete.
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