Jude Bellingham: Birmingham City retired Borussia Dortmund signing's No.22 shirt

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Jude Bellingham has attracted plenty of attention to Birmingham City this season.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that every European club of note was firing phone calls to St. Andrew's Stadium in a desperate attempt to sign one of the continent's most exciting youngsters.

In the end, Borussia Dortmund won the battle for the 17-year-old and it can only be imagined that the successful roadmap laid out for Jadon Sancho in recent years was a driving factor.

Bellingham's rise to prominence

Manchester United - who, funnily enough, are chasing Sancho this summer - were the main contenders to Bellingham on home shores, but his journey in Germany will start next season.

However, before Bellingham has waved goodbye to the Birmingham fans that chanted his name during a brilliant maiden year, the club has left him with a remarkable parting gift.

Retiring squad numbers isn't something that happens in football as much as it does in American sports, but there are exceptions to the rule when it comes to legendary players.

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Birmingham retire his squad number

Napoli will never issue the number 10 jersey again out of respect for Diego Maradona, while AC Milan are keeping number 3 and 6 out of bounds because of Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi.

But now Bellingham has joined this illustrious club after Birmingham took the decision to retire the number 22 jersey in order to commemorate their Dortmund-bound starlet.

The club explained in an official statement: "The 22 shirt has become synonymous with Jude, his rise to the first team aged just 16 years and 38 days and these qualities. 

"And as such the Club have decided it would be fitting to retire this number, to remember one of our own and to inspire others."

There's no doubt it comes as a surprise when you consider Bellingham has only made 44 first-team appearances for the club, 41 of which coming in the Championship and featuring four goals.

Combine that with the fact Birmingham placed in a so-so 20th position, failed to make it past the First Round of the League Cup and were dumped out of the FA Cup in the Fifth Round. 

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GIVEMESPORT's Kobe Tong says

I like what they're trying to do here. Yeh, honestly.

It's a bit like the 2012 Olympics in London deciding against picking one of the country's legends to light the flame, but rather living up to the 'Inspire A Generation' motto by calling upon young sporting hopefuls.

So, yes, it might serve as an incentive for young, aspiring footballers in the Birmingham area or the club's own academy to aspire for something amazing and there's nothing bad about that. 

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However, you can't help feeling that Birmingham are undercutting themselves here by setting the standard for retiring a shirt number at 44 appearances and leaving for Dortmund.

Bellingham has done well for himself, no matter what he goes on to achieve, so let's not get that twisted, but wouldn't it have made more sense if he decided to plough on at St. Andrew's?

Birmingham are a proud, proud club and just because they've gone a decade without top-flight football, it doesn't mean they should be getting used to it or expecting their talent to depart. 

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All that aside, though... if it inspires just one young footballer to pursue their dream, then it's all good with me.

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