Jordan Henderson believes "the sky is the limit" for his England teammate Jude Bellingham.
Few players in recent years have generated as much excitement and expectation as Bellingham at such an early point in their career.
At 18, he already has the world at his feet. A key figure for his club side Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham is set to play an increasingly important role for England under Gareth Southgate.
It is easy to understand why there are such high hopes for the all-action midfielder from Stourbridge, near Birmingham. Last week, he claimed Goal’s 2022 NXGN award, topping their list of the 50 best teenagers in world football.
Liverpool captain Henderson believes Bellingham has the potential to reach the very pinnacle of the sport but has warned against expecting too much, too soon.
"I don’t like speaking too highly of players, especially when they’re such a young age because everybody else seems to do that pretty quickly. But I’ve been very impressed," Henderson told SPORTbible ahead of Saturday's 2-1 win over Switzerland.
"I like the way he plays. I like his personality, which is the most important thing. I like the way he conducts himself. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him.
"He’s a great lad, a fantastic player and I’m sure he’ll go from strength to strength as he gets older and matures.
"When I watch him, he plays with such maturity even now. The sky is the limit for him really."
Bellingham has already made 83 appearances for Dortmund since joining the German club in a £25m move from Birmingham City in 2020.
His assured performances for both club and country have led to him being tipped as a potential future England captain, with Dortmund veteran Mats Hummels among those to have praised the midfielder’s leadership qualities this season.
Henderson also sees those traits in Bellingham but is wary of putting unnecessary pressure on the youngster as he continues his development.
"He’s still very young, he’s doing so well at Dortmund [and] he’s done well whenever he’s played for England. For me, let’s just let him play football. Let him enjoy it because he is such a special talent," added Henderson.
"Yes, he’s got leadership qualities for sure but there’s no need to put that pressure on him right now. Let him grow into the person that he can be on his own. He’s got his feet firmly on the ground [and] has such maturity for a young player.
"I know in my own mind that he’s going to be a top player."
While Bellingham is still in the formative years of his career, Henderson is now a grizzled veteran preparing for his sixth major tournament with England.
At 31, he is the second oldest member of the squad for this month’s friendlies against Switzerland and the Ivory Coast, and the upcoming World Cup in Qatar could represent his final opportunity to win the tournament with the Three Lions.
Henderson was part of the team that lost to Croatia at the semi-final stage in Russia, while he was also a second-half substitute in the Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy last summer.
When asked if he believes England are now in a stronger position to win the World Cup than at this stage four years ago, Henderson added: "I think we’ve made progress over the last four years, definitely.
"A lot of young players have come into the squad and are doing really well, and also at club level. They’ve played in big games and have performed well, so that experience will definitely help us a team.
"The experience that we’ve had in Russia and the Euros in the summer will help us as well. I would say we’re in a really good place.
"There’s still a lot of hard work to be done to win a major trophy for England. It’s never going to be easy. You’ve got to keeping working hard and do everything you can on the training pitch and in the games to prepare as best you can.
"If we do all that then anything is possible."
It is not only England’s men who will go in search of silverware this year, with England’s women currently preparing for Euro 2022 on home soil.
Ahead of the tournament, England and Nationwide Building Society have launched the 'Where Greatness Is Made' campaign, which celebrates the lives and careers of some of the most iconic women to have captained the Lionesses since their first international against Scotland in 1972.
Henderson is confident England’s women can go all the way this summer and has urged them to take full advantage of their status as host nation, having experienced the benefits of Wembley throughout Euro 2020.
"It is a big advantage. You have to use it, it’s not easy, but it does give you an extra lift for sure," he added.
"We experienced that in the summer. I think the fans made a big difference to the way that we performed, and our energy levels and intensity in games.
"We used that to our advantage and that’s why ended up getting to the final. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go all the way, it went down to penalties of course.
"I’m sure the Lionesses can use that home momentum and use the crowd to make sure that their performances are the highest level they can be, to go on and be successful in the tournament."
Featured Image Credit: PA Images
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