Lord Bellingham. Sir Jude. The Spanish press were stumbling over themselves to dish out some form of royal recognition for Real Madrid’s glittering Galactico.
Bellingham has acquired such saintly status after just 13 games for the capital giants, yet he ensured that each outing has been painted an unmistakable shade of Jude. No game was more dramatically swung by Bellingham than the first Clasico of the season.
A thunderous equaliser was followed by a trademark stoppage-time winner as Bellingham became the first Madrid player to score twice on their maiden trip to Barcelona since 1947. The 20-year-old was hardly overplaying his hand when he shrugged: “Everything’s going right.”
Not much has gone wrong for his compatriot Harry Kane during the England captain’s adaptation to life at another European behemoth. Bayern Munich’s newest No 9 has registered more goals and assists than Bellingham but hasn’t quite captured the imagination of his new home to the same extent. Admittedly, few ever have. Not many can compare to an individual who is asked for selfies by police officers in cities miles away from his new club.
Kane could potentially get the Bundespolizei onside with a starring role this Saturday in Germany’s equivalent of El Clasico; Der Klassiker between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, the club that sold Bellingham to Madrid last summer.
Thomas Tuchel has been dripping with praise for Kane since the Bavarians belatedly extracted him from Tottenham Hotspur. “Everyone can see what he does for our game,” the Bayern boss bluntly outlined.
Three months into the new season, Kane leads Bayern for goals (14) and assists (seven). There was a concern that the former Spurs player would struggle in a possession-based side which constantly comes up against low blocks but Kane has thrived even in a thimble of space.
Stuttgart’s revelation Serhou Guirassy is the only player across Europe’s top five leagues with more goals this season than Kane, who can boast one more than Manchester City’s Erling Haaland.
Yet, Kane, as ever, offers so much more than goals. With the likes of Kingsley Coman and the outrageously in-form Leroy Sane leaving scorch marks on the turf as they hare forward, Kane’s natural inclination to drop deep and facilitate is more evident with each outing.
Bayern have not lost a game since Kane’s first start for the club (W11 D2) but Tuchel is still adamant that the squad is in desperate need of reinforcements this January – with a new defensive midfielder the manager’s unashamed obsession. Despite having just Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Konrad Laimer to call upon, Bayern have conceded the fewest goals, xG and shots in the Bundesliga this season.
In September, Tottenham contested a north London derby without Harry Kane for the first time since 2014. Kane watched his former teammates duke out a 2-2 draw with Arsenal safe in the knowledge that his status as the fixture’s all-time top scorer is under little threat.
Son Heung-min equalised twice at the Emirates but can only boast seven goals against the Gunners, half Kane’s record tally. Only two other players in the history of arguably England’s most fiercely contested derby have hit double digits.
The derby always carried extra meaning for Kane after being rejected by Arsenal as a youngster. The club’s former academy chief Liam Brady remembered: “He was a bit chubby. He wasn’t very athletic, but we made a mistake.”
Borussia Dortmund may not hold the same sentimental motivation but Kane has proven to be a deadly foe for those from the Ruhr region before.
Tuchel, ironically, was manager of the first BVB team that Kane faced in 2016 but Mauricio Pochettino only gave his striker a fleeting cameo in a Europa League tie that was already lost.
Kane has scored in all three of his subsequent meetings with Dortmund. The ruthlessly prolific forward was the sharp tip of a Tottenham team that repeatedly caught Dortmund on the counter – something Tuchel’s Bayern will no doubt look to exploit as well.
After defeating BVB home and away in the 2017 Champions League group stages, Kane returned for the second leg of the following year’s last-16 tie in Germany. Pouncing on a moment in transition, Kane opted against his favoured method of drilling the ball across the goalkeeper, instead picking out the top corner to decide the tie. The gormless expression worn by Dortmund manager Lucien Favre quickly went viral.
Edin Terzic, Dortmund’s current incumbent, would be wise to keep his jaw fixed if – or more likely when – Kane scores.
Despite his mesmeric start to life in Madrid, Bellingham hasn’t been gravely missed in Dortmund’s dressing room, with Emre Can keen to be rid of the 20-year-old’s exacting demands and what he called “airs”.
Based on his previous record against Bayern, Bellingham’s absence will not be particularly felt in the biggest game of the season. Across eight meetings with the Bavarians, Bellingham never tasted victory, losing seven times.
That’s not to say that the dynamic midfielder wilted under the crushing weight of Der Klassiker. Bellingham set up two goals on Bayern’s visit to Dortmund in December 2021 but was left raging against the referee after Robert Lewandowski’s controversial penalty earned the away team a 3-2 win. Still only 18 at the time, Bellingham was fined €40,000 for his strong criticism of referee Felix Zwayer, citing the official’s previous ban for match-fixing.
If Kane is to take any lessons from Bellingham ahead of his Klassiker debut, keep the post-match interviews light.