Real Madrid fans were already in love with Jude Bellingham before Wednesday's Champions League match against Union Berlin, and his late winner -- in his first European appearance for the club -- gave them another reason to hail him as their new hero.
Bellingham has made an effortless start to life in Madrid, with five goals in as many games propelling the team to the top of LaLiga. The England midfielder continued that scoring run against Union when he popped up in the fourth minute of second-half injury time with a tap-in that sealed a 1-0 win for Los Blancos at the Bernabeu.
Speaking postmatch about his latest goal-scoring heroics, the 20-year-old told TNT Sports: "I'm not going to lie, I'd rather keep scoring in the 90-plus than the 15th [minute,] even though it might take a bit of strain off my heart and the fans' hearts.
"That's the history of the club. I'm new to the club but I've had a TV since I was little. I can't remember what age I've been watching Madrid complete comebacks, where I'm thinking there's no chance and it's not possible.
"When you're around those players every day who have been part of these triumphs in the past, you just pick it up and it rubs off on you. And I think if you don't have it then they sniff it out of you."
Bellingham certainly has a knack of hitting the ground running. From his first club Birmingham City, to Borussia Dortmund, to England, and now Real Madrid, he's made a habit of making an instant impression.
Here is a look at the landmark moments in Bellingham's brief, but brilliant, career so far.
Editor's note: this article has been updated since it was first published on Sept. 4, 2023
A prodigious talent, Bellingham was fast-tracked into Birmingham's first team, becoming the club's youngest-ever player when he made his debut on Aug. 6, 2019 at 16 years and 38 days old. It wasn't a game to remember -- Bellingham played 81 minutes of a 3-0 EFL Cup defeat at Portsmouth, picking up a yellow card -- but three weeks later, his home debut made up for that. Bellingham was introduced as a first-half substitute against Stoke City on Aug. 31 and helped inspire a 2-1 comeback, scoring the winner with a fortuitous, deflected shot from outside the box.
His first league start in the Championship then came on Sept. 14. Bellingham had the chance to unveil his now trademark open-armed goal celebration, scoring in the 52nd minute of a 1-0 win at Charlton as he slotted home from near the penalty spot.
Such was Bellingham's impact in his short time at St Andrew's that when he left for Dortmund in July 2020 for around €30 million -- becoming the most expensive 17-year-old in history -- Birmingham retired his No. 22 shirt.
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Confounding the doubters who suggested he might struggle to adapt abroad at such a young age, Bellingham took to life at Dortmund -- one of Europe's biggest clubs, with a noisy, passionate fanbase -- with ease. The teenager celebrated his debut on Sept.14, 2020 by scoring in a 5-0 DFB-Pokal cup win away at MSV Duisburg.
His Bundesliga debut came at Signal Iduna Park five days later, in a 3-0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach. Bellingham started and provided the assist for Giovanni Reyna's opening goal, part of a young, thrilling Dortmund team which also featured Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho.
Bellingham's leadership qualities were so obvious that just two years later, on Oct. 1, 2022, he captained Dortmund for the first time in a 3-2 defeat to Cologne, becoming the club's youngest-ever skipper aged 19.
Bellingham's growing status in Germany made an England call-up inevitable. His international debut came on Nov. 12, 2020 -- four months after joining Dortmund -- in a 3-0 friendly win over Republic of Ireland at Wembley, when he replaced Mason Mount in the 73rd minute. It wasn't until his 13th senior international appearance that he suffered his first loss in an England shirt -- a 1-0 loss to Hungary in June 2022.
Surprisingly, he had to wait two years and eight games before scoring his first senior international goal: a headed opener in England's 6-2 thrashing of Iran at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. His second came amid his flurry of goals for Real Madrid this season, as he scored in last week's 3-1 win over Scotland.
Carlo Ancelotti talks to the press after Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Union Berlin in the Champions League.
Bellingham's €103m move to Madrid -- made official on June 14, 2023 -- has seen his goal-scoring rate increase exponentially. A tweak from coach Carlo Ancelotti has seen him play as a No. 10, taking up positions closer to goal. The midfielder scored 12 times in three full seasons in the Bundesliga, but already has six goals in as many games, only failing to find the net once so far for his new club.
With construction work ongoing at the Bernabeu, Bellingham's first three games came away from home. He scored on his debut on Aug. 12, a 2-0 win at Athletic Club's hostile San Mames stadium, guiding David Alaba's cross into the net, and then went one better by grabbing a brace in a 3-1 victory at Almeria. A close-range header on Aug. 25 gave Madrid all three points in a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo and saw Bellingham join Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas as the only players to score in their first four LaLiga games.
He then finally made his home debut on Sept. 2 against Getafe. When goalkeeper David Soria spilled Lucas Vázquez's shot in added time, Bellingham showed a poacher's instincts to pounce on the rebound and make it 2-1, sparking jubilant celebrations. There was even a shout of "Vamos!" ("Come on!") from Bellingham to show that his Spanish lessons are starting to pay off, while after the game the Bernabeu crowd serenaded him with a rendition of The Beatles' song "Hey Jude," a moment the player said gave him goosebumps.
In the wake of that match, Diario AS' front page called Bellingham "The new boss of the Bernabeu" while columnist Tomas Roncero said the midfielder was "touched by the wand of the football gods." And that was even before he delivered another match-winning contribution this week where it matters most for Real Madrid: the Champions League.
It's early days, but you get the feeling the milestones will keep coming.