Real Madrid optimistic of beating Manchester City to Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid are optimistic of beating Manchester City to the signing of Jude Bellingham, but various sources have told ESPN it's too early to talk about any sort of agreement being reached.

Bellingham, 19, is one of the most sought-after players in the world and ESPN first reported Madrid's serious interest in the Borussia Dortmund midfielder last November.

Liverpool were thought to be the favourites to sign the England international at the time but Jurgen Klopp's side pulled out of the running last month.

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Following Liverpool's withdrawal, sources told ESPN that Premier League champions City felt they were best positioned to land Bellingham's signature.

However, as reported by ESPN in recent months, Madrid have never given up hope of signing the former Birmingham City player and now believe they are the favourites to do so.

Various reports in Spain even claim there is an agreement in principle for a deal between Madrid, Dortmund and the player this summer, but sources have told ESPN nothing has been closed at this stage.

Madrid have always said that Bellingham is a priority signing for them as they remodel their midfield in preparation for life after Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga have both been signed in recent years to complement Fede Valverde.

Bellingham is the next target and Los Blancos are happy with the progress they have made, but are aware of the twists and turns that have already taken place in the transfer saga given the amount of teams tracking the situation.

In recent weeks, though, sources confirm that negotiations have advanced and that the role of Madrid's chief scout Juni Calafat and managing director Jose Angel Sanchez has been key.

The same sources say Bellingham's desire to make the move to the Santiago Bernabeu has also helped Madrid maintain belief that a deal will be possible.

Various members of the Madrid hierarchy have made regular trips this year to meet with the player and his camp in an attempt to convince him to make the switch to LaLiga.

Bellingham would also be open to working with Pep Guardiola at City, where he has friends such as Erling Haaland and Jack Grealish, but recent talks have pushed him closer to a move to Spain.

After making his debut at 16, Bellingham left Birmingham for Dortmund after just one season in the English side's first team. He has since made over 120 appearances for the Bundesliga club, scoring 21 goals.

He has already been capped 24 times by England, too, and was a key part of the Three Lions team that made the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Qatar last year before losing to France.