He was the main guy – Jordan James knew Jude Bellingham would reach the top

He was the main guy – Jordan James knew Jude Bellingham would reach the top

Wales midfielder Jordan James says he knew his former Birmingham colleague Jude Bellingham was destined for stardom “from an early age”.

England international Bellingham joined Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund on a six-year deal on Wednesday, with the Spanish giants paying an initial 103million euros (£88.5m) for the 19-year-old.

James is a year younger than Bellingham but the pair were often team-mates in making their way through the various age groups at St Andrew’s.

Asked if he thought Bellingham would reach the top, James said: “You knew from an early age. He was a level above everyone else.

“He was the main guy and it was the same at the World Cup, he was the best player for me.

“When I joined at eight years old, I used to go up and play with him, and you could see the way he dribbles and how technically gifted he was.

“He wasn’t a big grower like me either. It was just before he turned 15 that he had his growth spurt, and now he’s turned into a man. That’s what helped him a lot.

“We’ve got different attributes, it’s hard to compare myself to someone who’s at the top already and that’s where I’m trying to get to.

Bristol City v Birmingham City – Sky Bet Championship – Ashton Gate
Jude Bellingham became Birmingham’s youngest-ever first-team player in 2019 (Nick Potts/PA)

“But we’ve been brought up the same way, in the same club, with the same philosophies, so hopefully I can reach that height.”

Bellingham became Birmingham’s youngest ever first-team player in July 2019 at the age of 16 years and 38 days.

James was not too far behind making his Birmingham debut at the age of 17 years and 142 days and he has already made more than 50 senior appearances.

He was born in Hereford and twice represented England Under-20s before choosing to play for the land of his father, the former Newport defender Tony.

“The opportunity was there with England and I wanted to try something new,” said James, who travelled and trained with the Wales squad at the World Cup in Qatar.

Wales Training Session – Al Sadd Sports Club – Wednesday November 23rd
Jordan James, far left, trained with the Wales World Cup squad in Qatar, even though he was not an official member of the party (Peter Byrne/PA)

“It was nothing against Wales, I love the country to bits. The opportunity came, but I knew straight away when I stepped foot on the pitch for England it didn’t feel the same.

“My dad is Welsh through and through, he’s put it into me. When I put that Wales shirt on, something special happens.”

It certainly did in March as James had only been on the pitch a few seconds in making his Wales debut when Nathan Broadhead scored a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser to deliver a 1-1 draw in Croatia.

Wales followed up that Euro 2024 qualifying bonus point by beating Latvia, and now aim to build on that promising start against Armenia and Turkey.

“The gaffer (Rob Page) has put a lot of trust in me, otherwise I wouldn’t be on the pitch in such a big game,” said James, reflecting on the Croatia draw.

“He’s really good with the young players. There’s a few of us like Luke Harris, Joe Low, Ollie Cooper, so that’s the next batch that will hopefully come through and be a part of it all.

“It’s more demanding in the seniors, there’s more eyes on you, but that’s what I’m here for.

“It’s where I wanted to get to and I’m trying to live up to it as much as possible.”