Jude Bellingham has revealed he felt honoured by Birmingham City’s controversial decision to retire the number 22 shirt after he had left the club to move to Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
The midfielder made the much-anticipated switch to Dortmund in July signing for a fee that could rise up to around £30 million. That came off the back of the 17-year-old enjoying an excellent breakthrough season last term in which he lit up the Championship with some of his performances and emerged as one of the finest talents amongst his age group in world football.
The Blues decided to mark the occasion of his departure with a gesture of appreciation and announced they would retire the number 22 shirt to commemorate his success in coming through the club’s academy. Birmingham justified the decision by suggesting it had been done in order to inspire potential future academy players aiming to emulate Bellingham’s success.
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Speaking to FourFourTwo, Bellingham suggested that whilst he did not believe he had earned the right to have his shirt number retired at Birmingham he still felt honoured by the gesture from the club. He believes it showcased how much he was enjoyed during his time in the first-team squad at St Andrews.
He said: “For me – whether people feel it was really deserved or not – it was an honour,” reveals Bellingham. “The club I love, recognising the things I did during my time there. You could say, ‘Well he only played this many matches and scored this many goals,’ but in my city I almost became a bit of an icon for some of the kids growing up.
“People enjoyed watching me play. I don’t necessarily think that was enough for them to retire my number, but it’s something I can be very proud of, and the club can be very proud of. Everyone benefited from me going, so I can understand their reasons and I’m extremely grateful to them.”
Birmingham’s decision to retire the number 22 shirt was one that garnered a lot of criticism from people outside of the club and other team’s supporters on social media. That was because they believed that the midfielder had not made anywhere near enough impact for the club in terms of matches played or trophies won and things like that.
However, what they do not realise is that to Birmingham Bellingham was something of a saviour. The money that he has brought into the club from his transfer will help to keep them stable financially and they could have been in a very poor situation at the moment without that.
That is why there will be many Blues fans who will be pleased the club chose to honour him in that way. Bellingham has taken it as a sign of how well admired he was during his time with the club, and it shows other potential academy stars of the future just how much they could mean to the football club if they develop in a similar fashion.