England: Behind the scenes as Jude Bellingham shows the swagger of a superstar

England: Behind the scenes as Jude Bellingham shows the swagger of a superstar

Jude Bellingham navigated his player-of-the-match press conference with all the aplomb that he had just shown in 86 minutes on the pitch. “Up the Villa,” joked one of the press corps with allegiances to that half of the second city, and the former Birmingham City player laughed and retorted: "No more media for you!"

Footballer press conferences can be awkward monosyllabic affairs, but in Bellingham breezed and charmed, engaged and pushed back when necessary but generally sprinkled his stardust on a new group of admiring foreign journalists from China to the USA.

Given that he is already giving interviews in Spanish at Real Madrid, this probably felt straightforward.

He baulked just the once when it was suggested England's second-half display demonstrated why their favourite status needs to be calibrated with a degree of caution. "I don't agree," he said.

Jude Bellingham with his man-of-the-match award (AP)
Jude Bellingham with his man-of-the-match award (AP)

"The first half shows why we can score goals against any team and the second half shows why we can keep a clean sheet against any team. Commonly there's a negative theme around all our games.

“Sometimes rightly so, but in this case you take the positive from the fact, [although] maybe we had to hold on at times and suffer, we kept a clean sheet and when you do that, all you have to do is score one goal."

Football stardom comes in many shapes and sizes, and Lionel Messi rose from being a shy introvert to global icon. But most of the greats have an element of swagger about them.

The reason why it took so long for Messi to be acclaimed in his home country was because they expected a Messiah in the mould of Diego Maradona, a charismatic leader who drove the team on the pitch but also captured the people with his words off it. The biggest sports stars usually have it all.

And you feel a little giddy suggesting that about a young man who will celebrate his 21st birthday later this month, and yet there it is. We are only one game in and it was only a scratchy 1-0 win over Serbia, but England might have the best player at this tournament.

Those who have the potential to rival him for the accolade are or have been team-mates or, in the case of Kylian Mbappe, is about to become a Real colleague. Jamal Musiala was a fellow prodigy on the England Under-15 team during the period of his life when he lived in New Malden, while Phil Foden and Harry Kane are fellow England stars.

But then you know you are blessed when Lennon and McCartney have penned your terrace anthem. There is a boyish air of insouciance about Bellingham at his best. “I really enjoy playing football, so I can do it with a fearlessness,” he said last night.

Where previous generations were burdened with the weight of the England shirt, he wears it lightly.