Jude Bellingham is being primed by the FA’s coaches to jump four age groups, and looks set to be selected for the England under 21s when Aidy Boothroyd names his squad in mid-week.
Bellingham became the world’s most expensive 17-year-old when he joined Borussia Dortmund from Birmingham City for £25m last month.
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His experience of international football to date has been with England U15s, U16s and most recently, with the U17s.
He was named player of the tournament when England U17s beat Poland in the final of the “friendly” Syrenka Cup last September.
But now the FA are planning an accelerated programme of development for the midfielder, who only turned 17 in June.
The schedule is designed for him to be ready to join up with Gareth Southgate’s senior squad in the next two or three years – depending upon how he develops in Germany.
If he gets as much game time as Jadon Sancho has in the past in the Bundesliga, there are even hopes Bellingham could be part of Southgate’s plans for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
However, there are concerns among some FA officials that pushing Bellingham too far too soon could be to his detriment. He has yet to be involved in a competitive international tournament with any of England’s junior sides so there is also a desire for him to get that experience sooner rather than later.
Next summer’s age group tournaments are still to be confirmed by UEFA as they try to deal with the hectic schedule in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
There is still much fluidity and uncertainty about who will be called up by each of England’s squads over the next two months. With many of England’s senior players returning from holidays in Europe and the continually changing picture with regards to quarantine rules, the FA is facing a logistical nightmare with this week’s announcements – not least because of the ongoing legal case against Harry Maguire in Mykonos.
It is possible Southgate may yet have to call up more “junior” players than originally planned for next month’s Nations League games against Iceland and Denmark.
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