Jude Bellingham and not Erling Haaland should be Man City’s Borussia Dortmund target

Manchester City had emerged from a gruelling Champions League tie and Pep Guardiola could not quite believe it.

Not that his team had finally laid their quarter-final ghosts to rest after Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden sealed a come-from-behind win at Borussia Dortmund.

No, there was something else over the course of the games at Signal Iduna Park and the Etihad Stadium that stretched credulity as far as the City boss was concerned.

“I cannot believe it, maybe he’s a liar!” Guardiola joked when discussing Jude Bellingham ’s age, the then-17-year-old had given Dortmund the lead in the second leg with an excellent strike after he also had a goal harshly ruled out in Manchester.

Over the subsequent weeks and months, it has become increasingly clear that Bellingham is nothing but the truth.

An elegant, imposing and technically gifted performer, the Birmingham City youth product was handed a start as England faced up to the formality of a World Cup qualifier against minnows Andorra on Sunday.

Even though Jesse Lingard scored twice in a 4-0 win, Bellingham produced the game’s viral moment with a shuffling, nutmegging first-half dribble out of a tight space by the corner flag that left three opponents perplexed.

As on his previous Three Lions outings against more challenging opponents, there was palpable ease to everything the teenager did. Accompanied by Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold in an experimental midfield three, Bellingham was the standout performer.

Jude Bellingham looks set to have a long England career

However, it is not just the player’s skillset and poise that screams maturity.

“There was one moment when he didn’t get the ball from central defenders, how he shouts and demands that ball to him at 17 means a lot,” Guardiola said after the game in Dortmund.

“I spoke with his manager, Edin [Terzic], and he told me what you see in these two games is like every training session.”

Indeed, Bellingham leads by example as well as vocally when it comes to some of the more unglamorous aspects of a midfielder’s trade.

According to FBref, his 435 pressures in the Bundesliga was second only to captain Marco Reus (476) in the Dortmund squad last season, while he was fourth for tackles and interceptions combined (75) and joint-second in terms of blocks (40).

Another man leads the way when it comes to the most important statistic for BVB and Erling Haaland is set to be the most wanted man in European football over the forthcoming transfer windows.

However, when pondering how to extract a prime talent from the Bundesliga giants, City might be better served to focus their attention upon Bellingham rather than his much-admired team-mate.

Erling Haaland is reported to have a £75million release clause that becomes active this season.

Yes, City need a striker and they don’t necessarily need a midfielder, but Bellingham is similar to Haaland in that he looks like a man who could be a dominant force for the next decade or more.

He wears number 22 at club level because Birmingham’s head of academy Mike Dodds told him he could be a great number 10, number eight and number four. It is little wonder Guardiola has already voiced admiration for a player whose designs on perfecting every central midfield role align perfectly with the Catalan’s footballing ethos.

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There would be no need for the headaches and steep financial cost of dealing with Haaland’s representative Mino Raiola – something that still feels like a big deal for Guardiola given their frosty relationship – while the prospective saga looks like the sort of transfer market operation the club usually tries to avoid.

City could also enhance their squad’s thriving English core. Foden and Bellingham might enjoy a generation-defining alliance for club and country.

Ever since he gave the Premier League champions an almighty fright earlier this year, plenty of City fans have been tantalised by the prospect of Bellingham one day lining up in sky blue.

As Man United found in their pursuit of Jadon Sancho, Dortmund always gets their price. When the time comes for Bellingham to make his next career move, it will be a price more than worth paying.

Do you think Jude Bellingham would be a better signing for City than Erling Haaland? Follow our City Fan Brands Editor Dom Farrell on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.