Is Birmingham’s Bellingham the best Under-18 player in the world?

Birmingham City

There's a lot of hype about Jude Bellingham with some of the world's biggest clubs keen to sign the Birmingham wonderkid, but is he the best of his age group?

Bellingham’s name has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in the world as his reputation has been enhanced by a string of fine performances that appear to be getting more impressive and mature by the week.

Compared to the likes of Kieron Dyer a few weeks ago, people are talking about him being the next Steven Gerrard now – which is quite some compliment for a 16-year-old.

Bellingham is bossing games in England’s second tier and regularly making fools of players with bags of Championship experience and good careers behind them.

Playing out wide against Barnsley last week, he terrorised on-loan Leeds United defender Clarke Odour for 27 minutes until Tykes boss Gerhard Struber took him off and moved the more wily Jordan Williams over to left-back to nullify him.

However, Williams couldn’t quite handle the task in hand as Bellingham broke away from him in the final few minutes to set up Karl Hogan for the winner.

He now has four goals and two assists in 21 starts and seven substitute appearances for the Blues and has a more-than-adequate rating of 6.78.

His asking-price, according to the tabloids that write about him every weekend, is now upwards of £35million with some even going as high as sticking a £50million tag on the Stourbridge-born starlet.

However, suggestions that he is the best Under-18 player in the world – that have been levelled in some quarters – need to be addressed. Has everyone forgotten Ansu Fati?

Fati, who turned 17 last October, has four goals and one assist in six starts and seven sub appearances for La Liga champions Barcelona – and his rating is slightly higher at 6.81.

While Bellingham is coming up against 21 and 22-year-old defenders that might make it to the Premier League one day, Fati is performing against established top-flight stars and international veterans.

They will ultimately play in different positions when Bellingham matures into a central midfielder, but maybe the comparisons will go on for years to come if they become the Messi and Ronaldo of the next generation.

More likely is that Fati will be compared to Real Madrid’s new outstanding prospect – Reinier Jesus – who is being prepared for his La Liga debut after being signed from Flamengo last month.

Slightly older at 18, the Brasilia boy is being fast-tracked into the Olympic Games squad for later this year and could use that as a springboard for a more prominent first-team role at the Bernabeu next season.

Bellingham could go either way right now and must think very carefully when he decides his future because, just one year ago, many were saying very similar things about 18-year-old Ryan Sessegnon.

He left Fulham for Tottenham Hotspur in the summer and has since played 341 minutes of Premier League football.