#World-class skills

Jude Bellingham: Running with pace and purpose

FIFA, 26 Oct 2023


In this third article of the series, we look at a player who took the FIFA World Cup 2022™ by storm, taking the game to the opposition with lung-busting runs with and without the ball. A player seemingly in perpetual motion. We are alluding to a new sensation on the world stage: Jude Bellingham.

Lightning-quick to see a transitional opportunity, Bellingham’s footballing instinct is to make runs that hurt the opposition, committing players between the lines when he has the ball or penetrating channels and pockets of space without it. His intuition is turbocharged with indefatigable drive and an innate understanding of when it is tactically appropriate to power forwards. He also has the alertness and quickness be the first to a loose ball or to get into space ahead of the play, as well as wonderful technical qualities to take full advantage of any openings created. The following video examples showcase the full range of his dynamic and world-class signature skillset.

Key insights

  • Always on the front foot and capable of covering vast swathes of the pitch, Bellingham possesses incredible energy levels and a relentless desire to force the play forwards. He takes up various positions in proximity to the ball, or hunts it down from further afield, always tactically alert and anticipating second-ball opportunities or that it will come his way. His tactical readiness is complemented by the physical attributes needed to beat the opposition to the ball. He frequently latches onto loose balls situations or gets into space ahead of the play, substantiating his speed of mind and fleetness of foot.

  • Eager to capitalise on any opportunity, Bellingham makes things happen with his desire to always play forwards, penetrating opposition territory and driving through the middle of the pitch with the ball at his feet, or making perfectly timed accelerations into the channels in behind the defensive line without it. His footballing signature is never more evident than when injecting tempo into a transitional phase, progressing the ball and ghosting into the space between opponents before playing a final pass.

  • His explosive runs frequently create goalscoring opportunities by occupying the opposition’s attention and drawing them out of position in pursuit of him. This in turn creates space in the final third for Bellingham and his team-mates to exploit. He takes full advantage of the openings he creates thanks to wonderful tactical awareness and technical ability. Specifically, he makes optimal passing decisions in transitional phases, selecting the appropriate foot and weighting of the ball with pinpoint accuracy into the path of his team-mates

Example 1. Penetrating runs through the middle with the ball

Our first example highlights Bellingham’s formidable quality and reading of the game. He sees and seizes the opportunity to attack by latching onto a loose ball and driving forwards, before selecting the optimal pass and executing it with perfect timing and precision to play in his team-mates following a wonderful piece of individualism. We join the action as a cross is deflected towards the midpoint of England’s half. Bellingham is deep in his own penalty area and the first to react.

Example 2. Different running perspective, same signature skills

Our second video shows another notable attribute of Bellingham’s signature skillset, namely his running with pace and purpose without the ball, on this occasion from the halfway line and into the final third. It is a perfect example of being one step ahead of the play, dragging opponents like a magnet into the space he has identified, which in turn creates space and openings for him and his team-mates to exploit. We join the action as the ball is played down the left flank and into the opposition’s half.

Example 3. From beginning to end – all signature skills

This example showcases all of Bellingham’s trademark attributes, with an injection of urgency and tempo with and without the ball. From the moment he latches onto a loose ball deep inside his own half to being the player furthest into opposition territory to provide the final ball, this is a fantastic example of his alertness and how he drives the team forwards with relentless determination to make himself available in all phases of the attack and to keep moves going by providing solutions and creating opportunities for team-mates.

Example 4. One exceptional run for one significant touch

This final example follows Bellingham’s contribution during a long passage of play that epitomises his world-class skillset. With his team trailing in the game, he runs back and forth with the play before ultimately running from inside his own half and arriving in the space between two defenders in the opposition box to play a short return pass. It is an inspiring display of his commitment to tracking back and his desire to get forward, and another great example of how he provides solutions and creates opportunities for the attacking players around him.


Involved in transitions all over the pitch, constantly on the move and near impossible to mark, Bellingham is the quintessential box-to-box player. He has an insatiable appetite to run and a mindset focused on playing forwards at all times. He always seems to be one step ahead of the play and first to the ball. He grasps attacking opportunities by making incisive runs into space, His power and determination on the ball draw clusters of opponents towards him, and he combines longer and more measured runs from deep with late darts into pockets of space within the box. These pacey and purposeful runs create opportunities and provide solutions for his team-mates.

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