Gareth Southgate said England are lucky to have Jude Bellingham after the Real Madrid midfielder produced another masterclass to guide his team to a 3-1 victory over Italy and into Euro 2024 on Tuesday night.
England recovered from Gianluca Scamacca's early opener to see off the Italians thanks to a pair of Harry Kane goals either side of Marcus Rashford's strike. It was England's first win on home soil over Italy since November 1977 and earned a measure of revenge for the penalty shootout defeat in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.
And while it was captain Kane and Rashford on the scoresheet, 20-year-old Bellingham was the star of the show. He won the penalty that set up Kane's equaliser – the Bayern Munich striker's 60th goal for his country – before assisting Rashford with a surging run and pass to give England the lead.
Beyond his involvement in two of the goals, Bellingham was at the heart of most good things for England and his energy and running were key in turning around his side's fortunes from falling a goal behind.
Having moved to giants Real Madrid in the summer, Bellingham has already endeared himself to the Madridistas with a lightning-fast start to his career at the Bernabeu, scoring 10 goals in 10 games, and this performance at Wembley showed how important he also is to his national team.
"With Jude, his mentality is incredible for his age," England manager Southgate said. "He's been a catalyst. I just think the way he carries himself and the way he plays shows that. He's had that since he walked through the door frankly.
"To have such an impact at such a young age, to show such maturity but also humility. We're very lucky to have him."
Southgate also reserved praise for Kane after his captain took his England tally to 61 goals. His brace against Italy saw him overtake Bobby Charlton to become his country's all-time top scorer at Wembley with 24 goals.
It was the 11th time that Kane has scored a double for England, with only Nat Lofthouse netting two or more goals in a game on more occasions for the country.
"Because we have had him for a while it's easy to underestimate but he's a top-level player," Southgate said.
"He's also in a new experience at a different club where he's looking to win trophies, with a different sort of focus and pressure as the big signing there, so all of that is good."
The performance against Italy and the ease with which England sealed their qualification will only heighten expectations in Germany next summer. But Southgate insists England can cope with the pressure of their status as one of the favourites to win Euro 2024.
"I think we have to accept that. Pressure comes when expectation is different from reality and reality is we are going to be one of the teams capable of winning," he said.
"There are others. You've only got to look through the top 10 European nations and on any given night one can beat another. But we're comfortable with that."
England made amends for losing the Euro final to Italy by beating them twice in the group stage, leaving the holders in danger of failing to qualify.
Southgate said winning a group that also featured Ukraine showed the development of his squad.
"There is more to come from this team. This was the toughest qualifying group, with the seedings. People have criticised us for not beating the top teams enough. But we have performed really well," he said.
"The biggest thing for us is the mentality, but we have to keep winning big matches like tonight."