JURGEN KLOPP is telling friends in football that he expects Jude Bellingham to one day become the best midfielder in the world.
After this brilliant performance — on his first start in a major finals — the outrageously-talented teenager from Birmingham proved his ride to the top could be a lot quicker than anyone expected.
It was a truly stunning performance from Jude Bellingham
In a remarkable show from England, in an air-conditioned stadium, Bellingham was on fire.
No wonder Klopp wants him for Liverpool. No wonder everyone wants to prise him away from Borussia Dortmund next summer.
No wonder he will probably end up at Real Madrid.
Bellingham announced himself on the world stage with a near-perfect performance. The 19-year-old illustrated he is Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes all rolled into one sensational package.
And on his 18th England appearance, two years after his debut against Ireland, Bellingham scored that first international goal.
Before the game, Bellingham, a player who certainly does not lack confidence, was asked about his lack of goals at international level.
He replied: “Maybe I’m saving it? I’m only joking, I’ve been trying, I promise.”
Just 35 minutes into the game, Bellingham set England on their way to a 6-2 win with an unstoppable header into the top corner after a perfect first-time cross from Luke Shaw.
Bellingham jogged over to a corner populated by neutral fans, held his hands aloft in the sky and looked deadly serious.
HOW TO GET FREE BETS ON THE WORLD CUP
The Brummie was effectively saying “if you’ve not heard of me, you have now.”
Afterwards, a beaming Bellingham spoke of his goal. He said: “I told you I was saving it!
“I thought I had missed. It took ages to loop into the goal. It was a great ball from Shawy and I was there to flick it away. It is a proud moment for me.”
At Dortmund during pre-season, Bellingham had been urged by the management team to become more involved in the final third. In his first two years in Germany, the midfielder scored ten goals.
But already this season at club level — where he has captained the side on some occasions — he has struck nine times.
It was not just Bellingham’s goal that saw him stand out so impressively.
He covered the pitch effortlessly, pressed high, won tackles and also played some killer passes, such as the ball to Harry Kane who crossed for Raheem Sterling to make it 3-0.
Although Bukayo Saka was the official man-of-the-match, it should have been Bellingham.
This was summed up in the 90th minute when he went in for a 50-50 challenge with Iran’s Saeed Ezatolahi.
Bellingham knew he was going to suffer a hefty tackle but he won the ball, then released a stunning pass to set Callum Wilson clear to create an easy goal for Jack Grealish.
England have certainly improved under Gareth Southgate but he has been missing that A-lister in central midfield.
Kalvin Phillips has done well next to Declan Rice but, despite returning from injury, must be preparing to spent most of the World Cup on the subs’ bench.
It was dynamic performance form Bellingham who covered every blade of grass
Bellingham was not afraid to admit his frustration to boss Southgate during Euro 2020 that he was only coming off the bench.
Now, though, he will remain a fixture in the England team for a decade and beyond.
Potentially, he could become the greatest midfielder this country has ever produced.
But short-term, though, Bellingham has some important business to deal with for Southgate and this England team, which delivered a proper statement of intent at the Khalifa International Stadium.
We are not used to seeing the Three Lions play anything like this. Not just in an opening match but in any tournament game.
Iran, ranked 20th in the world and just one spot lower than Wales, are no Qatar.
But as we saw yesterday, Bellingham can make even half- decent players look pretty damn ordinary.
And, best of all, he is only just getting started.