Borussia Dortmund were dumped out of the Champions League quarterfinals at the hands of Manchester City on Wednesday evening after losing both legs by the same 2-1 scoreline. However, one crumb of consolation for the German side was the standout performance of their teenage midfielder Jude Bellingham, who notched the opener at Signal Iduna Park with just 15 minutes played.
Aged 17 years and 289 days, Bellingham set several records tumbling on the night by becoming the youngest Englishman to score in Champions League history, just three days after doing likewise in the Bundesliga.
The Dortmund wunderkind also became the second-youngest goal scorer in the history of the Champions League knockout phase, being just 71 days older than Bojan Krkic was (17 years and 218 days) when he scored for Barcelona against Schalke in the 2007-08 quarterfinals.
To complete the hat trick, the former Birmingham City prodigy also became only the second player ever to reach 10 Champions League appearances before their 18th birthday (the first being Youri Tielemans in 2014).
The crux of the matter is that Bellingham is both exceptionally young and exceptionally talented — talented enough to go all the way to the top, and young enough to make all football fans of a certain vintage extremely jealous.
Just to put the Dortmund starlet’s tender years into some kind of context, here are a few footballing milestones that occurred around about the time he was born on June 29, 2003.
1. David Beckham signed for Real Madrid
Bellingham was born just three days before Beckham first posed with his new No. 23 shirt at the Bernabeu (on July 2, 2003) following his galactic £25 million transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid.
Jude Bellingham was born three days before this photo was taken 🤯 pic.twitter.com/blgJNn8qjP
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) April 14, 2021
2. Cristiano Ronaldo‘s debut season came to an end
By the time Bellingham was born, a 17-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo had only just finished his first full season as a senior professional footballer.
The Portuguese winger made his 25th and final league appearance of the 2002-03 campaign for Sporting Lisbon on June 1, eventually being subbed off after 70 minutes of a 2-0 defeat against rivals FC Porto.
By way of contrast, Lionel Messi was still ascending through Barcelona’s youth teams at the time and eventually made his debut for the Barcelona first team in a friendly against Porto on Nov. 16.
3. Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea
Rumours that Russian billionaire Abramovich was preparing to buy Chelsea began to gather speed in June 2003, with various media outlets reporting that he was to pay around £60m for a controlling stake in the Premier League side.
By July 2, the biggest takeover in the history of British football at the time had been struck, with Abramovich sealing a deal worth close to £140m.
The club went on to claim five Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, two Europa League trophies and one Champions League. And they are still going strong under his leadership, sealing their place in this season’s Champions League semifinals.
4. The Champions Leagues was re-formatted
Bellingham was born a few months after UEFA decided to scrap the “second group stage” round of the Champions League, the last fixtures of which were played on March 18 and March 19, 2003.
The change was made at the end of the 2002-03 competition in a bid to streamline the tournament and increase the drama by ushering in knockout ties directly after the initial group stages.
This means that Bellingham has the curious honour of being the first player born after the abolition of the second group stage to score in a Champions League quarterfinal.
5. It was the final of the 2003 Confederations Cup
The game was sadly overshadowed by the tragic and untimely death of Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivienne Foe on the pitch just a few days earlier, which united both finalists in shared grief.
Les Bleus ultimately emerged victorious, but it took a single 97th-minute golden goal which bobbled in off Thierry Henry’s thigh in extra time to settle the game in the hosts’ favour.
6. This classic Pepsi commercial was filmed
Bellingham is only five days older than this classic star-studded Pepsi commercial, which pitted the likes of Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Francesco Totti, Fernando Torres, Raul, and Beckham in a gladiatorial “foot battle” for the ages.
The advert was filmed in the blazing heat of Madrid on July 4, 2003 before hitting TV screens around the world several months later.