Augsburg’s Reece Oxford has hailed Jude Bellingham’s maturity and says the England international is destined to be a top player.
Similarly to Oxford, who joined Augsburg as a 20-year-old from West Ham, Bellingham is another example of an English youngster who has thrived since making the move to the Bundesliga with the 17-year-old establishing himself as one of the hottest prospects in world football at Borussia Dortmund.
Eyebrows were raised when Bellingham rejected the advances of the likes of Manchester United to join Dortmund from Birmingham City for £25m, but the midfielder has thrived in Germany, scoring four goals in 43 appearances in all competition this season.
One of those strikes was a stunning goal against Manchester City in the Champions League and he was thrust into the spotlight even further last November when Gareth Southgate handed him his England debut against the Republic of Ireland.
As such, Oxford – who knows all about dealing with pressure at a young age – feels there is even more to come from Bellingham.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, Oxford said: “He [Bellingham] plays like he’s played in the league for about three years! He’s comfortable, strong and he’s aggressive. He’s got everything to be a top player. Everyone compares him to the Steven Gerrard’s and stuff, but he’s got everything to be a top player if he keeps his head down and focuses.
“I feel like he’s made a big step and he’s impressed me. He’s in the senior squad for England and that’s crazy as well. He’s the [English] player that’s impressed me the most.”
With two caps to his name, Bellingham is in with a chance of making England’s squad for this summer’s European Championships and Oxford is keen to follow in the 17-year-old’s footsteps at international level.
Oxford initially played as a midfielder when he broke through at West Ham but has played as part of a back-three at Augsburg this season, a system which Southgate has also toyed with for England, too.
“I would hope to get a look-in with the senior squad,” Oxford revealed.
“I played for the twenties and every age group below so hopefully, I can get some more games out here and hopefully, he [Southgate] gives me a chance. Hopefully, I can prove to him that I can play in the senior squad and that’s the next step for me.
“I would say centre-half [is my preferred position] but the back three system is also good. We have strong defenders [like] Jeff [Gouweleeuw] our captain and Felix Uduokhai [at Augsburg]. We’re all strong in the back three, but some managers don’t play the back five or back three system or whatever you want to call it.
“Centre-half, I think, is my strongest position. I can also play centre-midfield but in the long-run, I’ll be a centre-half.”
The 22-year-old has enjoyed something of a breakthrough season at Augsburg this campaign and is starting to showcase why he was so highly rated at West Ham, where he famously became the Hammers’ youngest ever player when he made his debut against Lusitanos aged 16 years and 198 days.
Having been on the fringes of the first team during his first full season with the German outfit, he has made 23 appearances in all competitions for Augsburg this campaign and has been named Man of the Match on a few occasions for some strong performances.
While it has been a promising season on a personal level for Oxford, it has been a less successful one for Augsburg, who have been dragged into the Bundesliga relegation battle after winning just five league games in 2021.
The club have installed Markus Weinzierl as their new manager for their final few games and with avoiding the drop the key aim, Oxford looks back on the season with mixed emotions.
“It’s been a better season. If you’re looking at game time and stats, it’s been the best season in my career,” he explains.
“I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, because I always want to aim higher, but it’s better than the season before. I’m happy on a personal note, but I still think we’ve got a lot more to do as a team to stay in the league. We’re obviously a great team and want to stay in the league and the next two games are big for us and myself.”
Despite Augsburg’s relegation battle, Oxford has no regrets over making the move to Germany and feels he has not just improved as a player, but as a person, too.
“I’m learning to do stuff by myself,” he finishes.
“I’m living by myself obviously and no one’s here. In your spare time, you have to do something like learn the language, because it’s always good to know another language, especially German which is such a dominating language.
“It’s just the little things; cleaning up your house every day, washing, doing the dishes and cooking etc! It’s made me grow as a person as well.
“I just feel like in England, I was really young when I first came through so my concentration levels weren’t as good. But I feel like moving to Germany, they focus on the little things and it’s just starting to straighten now. I feel like I’m concentrating more and focusing more when I play.”
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