Jude Bellingham taking on Harry Kane shows he can be natural heir to England throne

Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid disturbing Harry Kane of Bayern Munich before a penalty kick
Jude Bellingham tries to get in Harry Kane's ear before his penalty for Bayern Munich against Real Madrid - Getty Images/Sebastian Frej

England fans should revel in the fact Jude Bellingham had the cojones to go up to Harry Kane and try to put him off taking his crucial penalty in Bayern Munich’s 2-2 draw at home to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final.

This is ‘big boys’ football and Bellingham and Kane are not just two of the biggest names in the world right now – and two of the sport’s most competitive performers – but will be fundamental to England’s hopes of triumphing at this summer’s European Championship.

For years England players have bemoaned the fact they have been too ‘nicey-nicey’ and a bit naive. Wayne Rooney’s greatest contribution following England’s dismal exit from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was to conduct an ‘exit’ press conference in Rio de Janeiro in which he criticised the lack of a ‘street-wise’ element to the team.

No one is suggesting Bellingham should go full ‘Luis Suarez’ (with the Uruguayan having helped knock England out of that tournament) and do whatever it takes – by fair means or foul – to win. But we should certainly be encouraged that the 20-year-old has that ruthless competitive edge, that touch of gamesmanship, to even try to unsettle his international team-mate and captain.

Not that Kane will care. Despite his penalty miss in the World Cup quarter-final against France when he probably over-thought facing his then Tottenham Hotspur team-mate Hugo Lloris, the striker does not get fazed.

He scored, of course, against Madrid which is why he was later happy to divulge what Bellingham had said – and did not let it bother him, at all.

This was about the moment: about Madrid v Munich. Two of the biggest and most successful teams in the European Cup going up against each other. The stakes could not have been higher and there was nothing wrong with what Bellingham tried to do. He certainly did not have to think twice because it was Kane, either. No, it was just a guy in a Bayern Munich shirt trying to score against his team and make it harder for them to reach the Champions League final.

We know Bellingham is a fabulously talented footballer. His impact at Madrid is unprecedented. We also know that part of his game is to play on the edge and he will use whatever means he can to win. We should applaud that and celebrate it. Declan Rice, while on England duty, once revealed he had never played with someone who is in the ear of the referee as much as Bellingham.

So he will think nothing, either, at upbraiding a team-mate, and there were stories out of Borussia Dortmund when he left last year that he can be a bit of a pain in the backside. Even so coach Edin Terzic did not think twice about handing Bellingham the captain’s armband and allowing him to regularly lead the team.

Will he captain England? It seems inevitable – apart from one obvious flaw which may not mean much to the fan but will be an issue with the Football Association.

While Bellingham is one of the most articulate and authentic of players – hence the reaction to his pre and post-match interviews around the Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City which were natural and not media-trained – his parents, who are his advisers, having guided his career superbly, remain reluctant for him to speak to the media. That cannot happen with an England captain.

Bellingham is known as ‘the boss’ in Spain

It would be a shame if he were not given the national-team armband. Bellingham does not only lead by ability and example but also by personality. He is extremely popular in the Real Madrid dressing room – as he was in Dortmund (and he is still friends with Erling Haaland and Gio Reyna) and before that with Birmingham City – and with England.

He has seamlessly integrated himself, to an unnatural extent, and one of his finest qualities is how he easily spends time with both older and younger players. In Madrid he gravitates towards Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, knowing he can also learn from them, while being friends with Brahim Diaz and Aurelien Tchouameni.

With England he is close to Jordan Henderson but also Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Maddison. And he absolutely commands respect – hence being known in Spain as ‘el jefe’ (the boss).

Kane – universally referenced to as ‘H’ even by his England team-mates – also falls into that. It is why Bellingham felt comfortable trying to put him off, partly trying to use his knowledge of how he takes his penalties. But then Bellingham is such a competitor he would have done it anyway.