Saturday was a special day for Real Madrid, as the Spanish giants reopened their Bernabeu home following a £500m refurbishment that began back in 2019.
Club president Florentino Perez had promised to create the greatest stadium in the world. It is now a spectacular space-age arena, complete with a retractable roof, which remained closed for Saturday’s curtain-raising visit of Getafe amid autumnal storms.
But if Real fans had started the day ready to enjoy their sparkling revamped home, they also came to salute their new hero: Jude Bellingham.
When the season started three weeks ago, the Englishman became an instant hit by scoring on his debut at Athletic Bilbao, added two more in a victory at Almeria, and then netted a late winner at Celta Vigo to secure three straight away wins.
Bellingham has settled quickly. Real fans have been impressed by the 20-year-old’s attitude and maturity, as well as by his form.
After the opening day win in Bilbao, manager Carlo Ancelotti said: “He has a lot of personality and has adapted very quickly. It already seems like he’s been with us for a long time.”
Two more signs of that fast integration have followed – one off the pitch, one on it. Last week, Bellingham took advantage of a couple of days off by enjoying a mini-holiday in the south of France with his new team-mates Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni.
Then Bellingham was named La Liga’s player of the month for August, setting the stage for his home debut at the Bernabeu’s grand reopening.
Match-winning heroics… again
Unfancied Getafe threatened to spoil Saturday’s party when striker Borja Mayoral intercepted a poor pass from another Real home debutant, left-back Fran Garcia, to round goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and convert an early opener.
Bellingham played a prominent part in a disjointed Real side’s attempts to get back in the game, regularly darting into the penalty area and on one occasion briefly winning a penalty that was overturned after a video assistant referee review.
But feisty Getafe continued to offer stubborn resistance, even after new Real frontman Joselu – starting his second spell at the club – pounced on a loose ball to fire home an equaliser just after the break.
Bellingham exerted less influence in the second half and appeared to be tiring, but boss Ancelotti kept him on the field and instead substituted out every other starting midfielder as hopes of a home win faded.
And that decision was justified in the 95th minute as Bellingham provided match-winning heroics for the second consecutive game, latching on to a rebound after Getafe keeper David Soria spilled Lucas Vazquez’s strike and coolly slotting home with a sweet left-foot strike.
Bellingham soaked up the moment by breaking out his arms-stretched, head-high and chest-out celebration. That celebration has quickly become the defining image of the new La Liga season and is set to follow Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous ‘Siiiuuu’ in inspiring thousands of playground imitators when schools go back in Spain next week.
That celebration is more than just a pose; it is also the expression of an attitude, neatly capturing Bellingham’s ability to tread the line between confidence and arrogance, fitting at a club where a supreme belief in one’s own superiority is encouraged.
And even though the season is less than a month old, it has helped make the man from Stourbridge an instant hit in Madrid.
Speaking after the game, Bellingham told Real Madrid TV: “It’s the loudest moment I’ve heard in a stadium. Happily it was for my goal.
“When they were singing ‘Hey Jude’ at the end, I got goosebumps.
“I just wanted to stand still and listen to them. My legs were shaking.
“I know I was brought in for these kind of moments, they’re the kind of moments I know I can deliver for this team.”
New team, new role
Bellingham is the third player in Real Madrid history to score in each of his first four games for the club – following Pepillo in 1960 and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009 – and he will be under pressure to maintain his prolific habits as the season unfolds.
The club’s failure to land Kylian Mbappe, or any other equivalent replacement for Karim Benzema, has left Ancelotti extremely short of goalscoring options, with new arrivals Joselu and Brahim Diaz joining Brazilian wingers Rodrygo and the currently injured Vinicius Junior as the only four forwards in the squad.
Goals will have to come from elsewhere. Bellingham in particular has the freedom to roam from midfield and make well-timed runs into the penalty area, exactly as he did for Saturday’s winner.
Recognising his new signing’s instinct to sniff out goalscoring chances, Ancelotti has asked Bellingham to play further forward than any other stage in his career.
That’s also partly because of his team-mates. With Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Fede Valverde, Tchouameni and Camavinga also on board, Ancelotti boasts midfield riches galore and does not need Bellingham to create play from deep.
Instead of generating attacks, Real need the England man to finish them by bursting into the box in support of the forward line, and it’s telling that 49 of his 58 touches against Getafe came in the opposition half.
Expecting him to maintain Ronaldo-like levels of scoring is not realistic, but he will surely exceed his current career-high tally of 14 goals, achieved last season with Borussia Dortmund.
And the opening weeks of the season have suggested that, with his combination of talent, attitude and goals, Jude Bellingham is already arguably Real Madrid’s most important player… and their most popular.