Jude Bellingham said he was happy to bounce back from his subdued performance against Ukraine after producing a dazzling display in England's comfortable friendly win over rivals Scotland on Tuesday.
Bellingham, regarded as one of the finest young talents in world football, has been in sensational form for Real Madrid since moving to the Spanish giants this summer, scoring five goals in his first four games.
However, the 20-year-old midfielder was, like many of his teammates, below his best in the 1-1 draw with Ukraine in Saturday's Euro 2024 qualifier. But against an outclassed Scotland he was magnificent in a more advanced role, producing a silky display which included a goal and an assist for captain Harry Kane.
“I wasn’t happy with how I played against Ukraine, I showed a level that probably wasn’t anywhere near my best and the motivation is to always get back to my best and I think that was close to it tonight,” Bellingham said.
“I knew tonight was more than a friendly game, it means too much to the fans, with bragging rights and all those sorts of things. I knew I wanted to be near to my best tonight so the England fans could go home happy.”
Previously viewed as an all-round, box-to-box midfielder, Bellingham has been deployed in a more advanced role by Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti this season – and to great effect.
Used in a similar position for England against Scotland, Bellingham showed why he can be such a devastating attacking threat.
“This was probably close [to my best role]. I know it depends on the system we play,” he said.“ I think it’s a freedom role. If you look at my performances in Madrid so far, they are ones that are quite complete because I get given the freedom by the amazing teammates, coaching staff, and manager that I’ve got.
“They allow me to go all over the pitch, to help with build-up, to be in the box and finish the chances and to create as well. I think I can do all that pretty well, I can still do it a lot better and that’s what I’m trying to prove."
However, Bellingham added that he is happy to play anywhere for England if it means helping the team.
“It’s tough because we have so many amazing players to accommodate and to get the best out of, so it shouldn’t just be built around what I do," he said. "The team has to come first always and I try to do my best to slot in and do whatever the gaffer wants from me.”
England manager Gareth Southgate said that Bellingham did not have any point to prove despite a subdued display against Ukraine, with the draw leaving England six points clear at the top of qualifying Group C.
"Saturday was not his best game but we weren't at the level we wanted to be and we knew he has a fantastic personality to come back from that," Southgate said.
"His performances have been outstanding and one performance isn't going to change that. As an attacking eight, or where he played tonight, he looks to get into the box.
"Tonight his athleticism to press was so important. Scotland's system is difficult to play against so we slightly changed our system and he did that well."