Bellingham's father Mark is known for being tough negotiator as agent
Jude Bellingham’s father Mark was a fearsome non-league striker… now he’s known as a tough negotiator who is outwitted by nobody after becoming Real Madrid star’s agent
- Mark Bellingham went from clinical non-league scorer to respected agent
- He has earned a reputation as a tough negotiator guiding career of son Jude
- Big debates on Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal on It’s All Kicking Off podcast
The ball bounced into a little space in midfield. Stand off him at your peril. One touch, turn. One touch, set. One touch… screamer into the back of the net. He wasn’t finished yet, but when Jude Bellingham scored the first of his two goals against Barcelona, he was confirming himself as the top scorer in all Spain.
But not, as it turns out, top scorer in his own house. Behind Bellingham — and his barnstorming rise to global fame — is a little-known goalscoring machine. His father, former police officer Mark.
Along with his mother, Denise, the Bellinghams (including younger son, Sunderland’s Jobe) are a hot topic in football circles, acting as agents and steering their family on a journey from Dudley, home of Lenny Henry and James Whale, to the Bernabeu, home of Puskas, Zidane and galacticos galore.
Whereas most international footballers of repute are elite clients within international football agencies, Bellingham has his mum and dad.
Mark Bellingham had built a fearsome reputation as a non-League striker, scoring more than 700 goals across 25 years.
Behind the fame of Jude Bellingham is a little-known goalscoring machine – his dad Mark
Bellingham (L) might be lighting up LaLiga this season, but his dad (R) scored more than 700 goals in non-league
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Where once he terrified defenders across the amateur game in several Midlands outposts, now Mark has the respect of the most significant figures in world football. Whether facing a centre-back from Fairfield Villa or Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, Bellingham Snr is outwitted by nobody. Every move is planned with painstaking care.
With Jude, at 20, already the heartbeat of England, the Bellingham family are now one of the most powerful in football. Last week Jude won the Kopa Award for the world’s best young player. It feels inevitable the senior award, the Ballon d’Or, will follow.
Madrid agreed to pay £113million for Bellingham when they fought off Premier League clubs to sign him from Borussia Dortmund last summer. The Madrid No 5 has a deal with fashion house Gucci and has the potential to match the off-field earnings of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Every marketing chief wants a part of Brand Bellingham and at this rate he will be English football’s brightest crossover star since David Beckham.
All the top English clubs wanted him from the moment he made his debut for Birmingham aged 16 but the Bellinghams had other ideas. Why accept the soap opera of English football when Jude could gain top-level experience abroad, away from the UK spotlight?
That is why they chose Borussia Dortmund over Manchester United in 2020. That is why last summer they looked beyond the Premier League and went for Real Madrid. The decision to dodge England’s top flight is known to be part of the family’s strategy to protect Jude’s mental well-being, given the obvious attention he would receive. Who knows if Bellingham will ever play in the Premier League at all?
‘This is the club [Real] I want to be at for the next 10 to 15 years,’ he said after inspiring England to victory over Italy at Wembley last month. ‘I am loving it there.’
The Bellingham family are one of the most powerful in football after guiding his career from Birmingham to Real Madrid
His parents have guided his every step and, so far, they are nailing it. Fiercely protective they may be but who can criticise when this is the outcome? This is not unique behaviour. Formula One star Lewis Hamilton had father Anthony at the centre of his sporting world and it was the same for three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray with mother Judy.
It all started in far quieter surroundings, however, as Jude and Jobe stood on the sidelines watching their father score goal after goal.
During spells with at least 20 clubs, Mark Bellingham eventually passed the 700 mark. Even though he was renowned as a penalty-box predator, the landmark strike actually came from a free-kick.
‘I’ve started to score a lot more tap-ins,’ Bellingham said in an interview with the Non-League Paper after reaching his target with Midland League Division Two side Paget Rangers in September 2016. ‘I needed 38 goals last season (to reach 700) but got to 36 and was banned for the last game. With two needed to reach 700, it felt like there was unfinished business.’
Bellingham was a sergeant for West Midlands Police and though a fine semi-pro player, he never progressed to the professional ranks. He suffered two serious knee injuries and also had to combine football with his education and then his job.
‘I don’t know how he did it,’ Jason Cadden, who managed Bellingham at Leamington in 2009, has said. ‘In evening games, the full-time whistle would blow and you’d see Mark sprint off. He’d jump in the shower, get in his car and start his police shift at 10pm.
Mark (R) – who also worked as a policeman – shut off recruiters and agents who came calling
‘He made goalscoring look simple. I’m sure he’d have done the same in the Conference, League Two, maybe higher.’
Mark’s journey began for East Thurrock against Horsham YMCA in August 1994, when he hit his first goal, and he simply kept going.
In 2005-06, Mark scored an astonishing 61 goals for Stourbridge, a record that still stands. ‘He could have played much higher,’ was the opinion of Gary Hackett, Mark’s former team-mate and manager. ‘But Mark is a highly intelligent lad and probably realised his prospects were better in the police.’
The spell at Leamington brought 79 goals in 87 matches, including six hat-tricks.
The article in the Non-League Paper after his 700th goal is one of the few examples of the intensely private Mark speaking on record.
‘I’m 40 now so I think this season will probably be my last,’ he said. More important business awaited.
Abrupt. Difficult. Straight. Three words you’ll often hear in football to describe Mark Bellingham.
Mark, together with wife Denise (R), have had a specific vision for their son in the game
In 2019, as Jude’s stock began to soar, recruiters across Europe shifted into gear.
The phone numbers of various heads of recruitment would be passed to Jude, who’d hand them to Mark. He didn’t take kindly to that.
Mail Sport has seen one message sent to a leading European transfer administrator in which Mark makes clear his disdain at how his son had received his number.
Yet Mark was intrigued. His son was outgrowing Birmingham and it would have been self-defeating to shut the door on growing interest.
Not that those on the other end of the phone ever felt Mark was willing to veer from the path he’d envisioned for his son.
‘Mark is open to listening — but will then tell you how it’s going to be,’ said one technical director.
‘Through Mark, Jude has had two great places to learn,’ said another source. ‘When it looked like he was getting too big for Dortmund, he moves to the biggest club in the world.’
It was clear Bellingham was beginning to outgrow Birmingham, so Mark found him the next best place to learn
Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Mark, Jude could well have been playing for Arsenal at Newcastle on Saturday night.
In Jude’s Under-14 year at Birmingham, the midfielder and his parents were treated to a tour of London Colney, spending around three hours at their training complex. Arsenal believed they could sign Jude for £500,000 and the Bellinghams left Hertfordshire expecting the club to make an offer.
Arsenal decided to watch Jude one final time on the Saturday before submitting the offer on Monday morning. Too late.
By the time Arsenal submitted their bid, Mark had decided his son was re-signing with Birmingham, citing his belief the north London club had misled them about the timing of the offer.
Jude was barely into his teens by the time scouts were marvelling at how he would glide through midfield in games against older boys.
He was chosen for England’s Under-15 squad aged 13 and kept a diary of the training camp. ‘I knew I was in for a special experience,’ he wrote, marvelling at ‘the crisp, spectacular pitches’ at St George’s Park.
During his only season in English football, Bellingham made 44 Championship appearances, while earning a scholar’s wage of £145 per week. ‘The best player in training every day,’ says Harlee Dean, the captain in that 2019-20 campaign. ‘I said he was one of the most complete footballers I had seen,’ recalls Pep Clotet, manager at the time. ‘Maybe I didn’t go far enough.’
By then the agents and promoters were making their representations to the family but none was successful. Why ask someone else to do what the family was already handling rather impressively?
‘A nice guy — always polite and friendly,’ said one senior football figure when asked about Mark. ‘Fierce negotiator and a really shrewd operator,’ remarked another.
Bellingham – pictured with Mark as a baby – had scouts marvelling at his ball-carrying technique
It was always going to be Dortmund. The family had studied the club closely and liked the opportunities they gave to young players, such as Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland — who became friends with Bellingham in Germany. They liked the idea of Jude going straight into the first team and playing high-level matches in front of more than 80,000 fans at one of the world’s most atmospheric stadiums.
From earning £145 a week, Jude suddenly had a £2.6m annual salary to look forward to — he was still a year from his 18th birthday.
Denise moved to Germany with her son in those early months, living in an apartment a short distance from Dortmund’s training ground.
Bellingham was keen to learn German and during his first pre-season was having lessons three times a week. Bellingham understood most instructions and his conversational German improved. He adapted well and developed a taste for schnitzel, a thin slice of veal in breadcrumbs.
Bellingham quickly became Dortmund’s best midfielder and the transfer went so well that they considered signing Jobe too, and continue to monitor him.
Word quickly spread that Bellingham Snr had taken it upon himself to call Gareth Southgate to discuss his son’s progress at international level.
Bellingham’s family knew they would choose Dortmund as his next destination after being impressed at how they breeded youngsters
AND BROTHER JOBE IS PRETTY GOOD TOO!
Scouting report on Jobe playing for Birmingham at Sunderland last season:
Looks exactly the same as his brother. 6ft 1in, has natural athleticism. He’s got the same feel for the ball — intentions are always positive, lovely mover, confident and assured — a box-to-box midfielder.
He looks very bright, less arrogance and swagger than his brother had at the same stage — looks a bit more of a worker and thinker.
‘There was almost a disbelief about it all. Gareth was taken aback by it, too,’ said an England insider. ‘We all knew that could not become a regular occurrence.’
The shock call is indicative of Mark’s unquenchable thirst to leave no stone unturned for the betterment of his son.
To this day, Mark continues to exert his influence on Jude’s media commitments, all symptomatic of the loving control Mark — and Denise — have on their son’s career.
Though it would be unfair to compare the brothers, Jobe is making impressive progress. He wears ‘Jobe’ rather than ‘Bellingham’ on his shirt, but the parallels are hard to avoid. Both trained with the first team at Birmingham while still at school.
Both showed the same quiet confidence that impressed senior players. Both were athletic, technical midfielders, though the young Jobe played as a No 10, with Jude a box-to-box midfielder.
As attentive to Jobe’s career as they are to Jude’s, the family concluded that leaving Birmingham was the way for Jobe to develop as rapidly as possible. Sunderland has proved yet another smart choice. Jobe has two goals and an assist in 14 games for the Championship club, who he joined on June 14. That same day, Jude made the move that would change their lives.
As Bellingham was presented as a Real Madrid player for the first time at the club’s training ground, there were his parents and brother in the front row. Mark beamed while Denise took photos.
A number of agents would have been watching those images wistfully, wishing they had been able to enjoy a piece of the cake. No chance. From day one, this has been a family affair.
‘The role my mum is playing is massive,’ Jude said at that unveiling. ‘It is probably the biggest role of anyone, more than my coaches and managers.’
Though he lives in the exclusive La Finca neighbourhood in the west of the city, Bellingham is already taking a different path from two recent successful exports to Madrid.
Bellingham has got stuck into life in Spain, quickly learning the language and sparkling on the pitch
By the end of his four years in Spain, David Beckham was speaking workmanlike Spanish and while Gareth Bale insisted he had a grasp of the language, he rarely used it in public.
By contrast, Bellingham has got stuck in, with team-mates Lucas Vazquez and Joselu his teachers.
On the pitch, Bellingham has been outstanding, scoring twice at Barcelona to secure victory for Madrid in El Clasico. Off it — of course — his family have not missed a beat.
‘They are playing the football world at its own game,’ remarked one experienced observer. A little more than four years into this journey, there are no doubts about who is winning.
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