Jude Bellingham was meant to be the future of Liverpool’s midfield, with the English giants putting off a necessary midfield rebuild for two seasons to wait for Dortmund’s rising star. A week ago, the club instead pulled out of the transfer chase.
In the days since there have been rumours he could end up at Real Madrid, rumours he could end up at Manchester City, and rumours he could sign a new deal at Dortmund—potentially with a release clause in 2024—and stay there another year.
According to The Times’ Jonathan Northcroft, at least, it’s the latter that is likeliest after Liverpool decided they can’t afford to spend £130M on any one player, no matter how good and no matter they’ve known his likely cost and needs for years.
It’s an at least plausible suggestion: the player is still just 19, enjoying his time in Germany, and a new deal that ups his wage, keeps him at Dortmund another year, and maybe even gets a more affordable release clause into the mix for next year.
Everybody wins, then. Maybe. Though in some ways it only further complicates things for Liverpool, who have held out for Bellingham for two years and whose only prime age midfielders are an out of form Fabinho and departing Naby Keïta.
Put simply, the Reds cannot afford to delay a rebuild any longer. This season has been a disaster—mainly due to a tired, aging, injury-prone midfield—and holding back this summer because Bellingham might be available in a year would be reckless.
Yet if Bellingham is going to be there in 2024, potentially holding out for Liverpool, how will this club react when faced with the prospect of needing to sign a £40M or £50M or £60M player who they believe will end up on the bench after a season?
Bellingham is a generational player, and if Liverpool can land him—this year or next—it will be a massive transfer win. Sadly, whatever wiggle room they’ve had to rebuild their core has passed, and the club need to worry about 2023-24 right now.