Predicting which football club would suit Jude Bellingham best next season

It would be quicker to name the teams across Europe that are not interested in signing Jude Bellingham this summer.

In truth, you would have a hard time finding someone.

Bellingham is currently one of the most coveted midfielders in world football and has earned the right to choose his next career destination – should Dortmund allow him to leave Signal Iduna Park this summer.

At just 19, the fact that we need little convincing on Bellingham’s career trajectory shows just how talented he is. Athleticism To previously analyzed Bellingham’s game profile with a rotation of data and tactics – describing the teenager as incredibly complete in his player profile. This is particularly remarkable when compared to his peers across Europe this season.

No midfielder ranks higher than Bellingham’s 16.7 progressive passes per 100 touches, which shows how often he looks to move the ball forward.

Meanwhile, Bellingham’s 5.6 tackles and interceptions (adjusted for possession) for 90 puts him in the top 5% of his peers – underscoring his defensive work rate – with an offensive contribution of 0.35 goals expected ( xG) plus expected assists (xA) by 90 among the top 12 percent of midfielders in Europe.

Combine these traits and we can visualize just how versatile Bellingham’s skills are.

Especially since Edin Terzic has alternated between a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3 and a 4-1-4-1 in Dortmund this season, Bellingham showed his versatility to play as No 4, No 8 and No 10 — a “Jude of all trades,” if you will.

Of course, there are many attributes of Bellingham that you simply cannot quantify in the data. Close control in tight areas. A propensity to slide past their opponent and sting the ball forward to continue a fluid motion.

An astonishing ability to cut back and change feet in the final third – a skill he clearly developed on academy grounds.

Rather than looking back at a reel of highlights of Bellingham’s undoubted talent, let’s direct our gaze forward.

While the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are all – in theory – chasing Bellingham’s signature, each of them would undoubtedly argue that Bellingham would be suitable for their club.

But from a neutral point of view, what would be the best solution for Bellingham?

To answer that, let’s hit that data button again…

Data has become increasingly important within professional clubs, but more advanced modeling can provide predictive power in the decision-making process, as Dr. Ryan Beal, CEO and co-founder of SentientSports Recruitment Analysis, explain to Athleticism.

“Traditional sports analytics have long focused on retrospective analytics that rely on analysis of a player’s past performance to assess their potential performance in the future,” Beal says. “These methods have been successful in identifying talent, but they don’t always predict a player’s success in a new team or league.

“We have developed advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology that focuses on forward-looking analytics to simulate how a player will perform once he has changed clubs. This allows us to assess the potential of a player on a new team and the likelihood of his success.

Think of the times when you were sure the exciting talents you’d been watching for months were coming to your team, only to find that they just hadn’t reached the heights you expected when they arrived. Does that make him a bad player? No. Could that make it a bad fit? Yes.

Timo Werner, we’re looking at you.

“Not all good players are suitable for all teams and team dynamics and culture play a crucial role in determining success,” says Beal. “Our AI technology helps teams reduce the risk of making the wrong decision by objectively simulating many different potential outcomes”

With that in mind, let’s assess how Bellingham’s profile might fit among Europe’s elite suitors.

But first, the corny stuff to describe the methodology.

SentientSports simulates a player’s aptitude via two criteria.

  1. Chemistry Prediction – this predicts how well a player will fit in with their new teammates on and off the pitch. This is based on an analysis that calculates how current players work together on the pitch, based on their bond to contribute to their team’s attack. The analysis then forms a “Neural Network”, which predicts how well players will develop relationships after a transfer. This uses features such as playstyle, ability, languages ​​spoken, age, and games played together.
  2. Tactical Fit Prediction – this predicts how well a player is suited to a team’s playstyles and tactics by looking at three different areas. The playing style and formations of the player’s current team are compared to the form and playing profile of his potential teams. Additionally, ‘positional usage’ assesses how often the player has played in a position used by the potential team – for example, the role of a central midfielder in a 4-4-2 versus a 4-3-3.

Together, a score from 0 to 100 is provided for each criterion to map a player’s overall suitability, with AI techniques providing automated explanations of the results provided.

Results time.

Weighing the two parameters in the simulation, Liverpool, PSG and Barcelona are among the clubs most suited to Bellingham’s profile. A move to France is unlikely and Barcelona’s finances remain in a state of chaos, so let’s start with Liverpool.

The SentientSports report suggests Bellingham should adapt to Jurgen Klopp’s tactical setup, which is based on high pace, frequent counter-pressing style and positional rotations. Dortmund’s transition style under Terzic would be an advantage for Bellingham at Liverpool, with their usually devastating ability to punish opponents when not in their defensive structure.

His relationship with England team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson factors into the model, with Bellingham having also played with Curtis Jones and Rhys Williams within the international setup.

A return to England should rightly be the smoothest transition for the 19-year-old.

In that case, why not Manchester City or Manchester United?

For United, Bellingham’s familiarity with a 4-2-3-1 system is an advantage, but SentientSports describe the change required of the teenager to become more disciplined in his defensive duties within a more structured formation.

Where Liverpool’s counter-pressing style might play to its strengths, United’s style might need more adaptation to a new role.

For City, an environment filled with familiar faces of international duty would be a notable advantage – having been named in squads 254 times alongside seven members of that squad – but given Manchester City’s more possession-based approach, Bellingham should adapt his profile to a more considered build-up under Pep Guardiola, based on ball retention.

Although it is a different position, it would be a similar process that fellow West Midlander Jack Grealish had to undertake in order to understand Guardiola’s demands in such a specific system.

Finally, at Real Madrid, who had informal and positive talks with the Bellingham camp, run by his father Mark. SentientSports predict Bellingham should be able to adapt to Real Madrid’s tactical style without too much difficulty, after showing he is comfortable in a 4-3-3 system with counter-attacking in-game strengths .

However, the model takes into account the limitations of the language barrier, with Bellingham having fewer opportunities to converse in English in the Spanish capital. Having not played with any of the current sides before, an adjustment period would be required if Bellingham were to move on to the current European champions.

Of course, this forward-looking predictive information is highly valued, but Beal stresses the importance of using the information as a tool rather than a crutch.

“We recognize the importance of human subjective intelligence in sports decision-making,” says Beal. “Our technology works best in combination with human expertise and intuition to provide more efficient and informed decision making. By integrating AI into the decision-making process, teams can streamline their search and recruitment processes, save time and resources, and ultimately increase their chances of success. »

Apart from his undeniable talent, the cliché phrase ‘the best ability is availability’ also rings true for Bellingham – especially in such a physically demanding midfield position.

No teenager has racked up more minutes in Europe’s top five leagues than Bellingham since the start of the 2021-22 campaign.

Within the Dortmund team, only central defender Nico Schlotterbeck has totaled more minutes than Bellingham in all competitions this season.

There are already a lot of kilometers in these legs.

At just 19, there are two ways to look at this. The first is that Bellingham’s rapid physical development is supported by his hardiness, making himself almost always available for selection.

However, a pessimistic view would be that a duty of care could be required from a manager. While the positions played are totally different, should we take lessons from a former English teenage prodigy?

Bellingham (17 years and 136 days) usurped the international record of Michael Owen (18 years and 183 days) at Euro 2020 to become the youngest England player to make an appearance at a major tournament – the first player to do so. do before the age of 18.

Much like Bellingham, Owen’s rise to the top was as steep as it gets, announcing himself on the world stage at the age of 18. However, too much playing time during his teenage years was ultimately his Achilles heel in his career – or rather, his hamstring.

A serious muscle injury at the age of 19 was the catalyst for a host of subsequent injuries throughout his career, and Owen’s powers were arguably on a downward trajectory from age 26. He retired at 33.

Of course, the same can’t be said for Bellingham, where his skills rely less on explosive pace and power.

However, at a time when FIFPRO, the global union for sports players, has described the consequences of frequent exposure to matches on the well-being of playersthis is a crucial factor that coaches need to be aware of.

The message is simple. Whoever lands it, please take care of him.

He’s a generational talent and he’s earned the right to choose his next destination.

(Top photo: Alex Pantling – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

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