Much of the talk at the Stadium of Light is centred around the club’s prolonged period without a head coach but in the background, very soon to be in the forefront, comes the transfer market and Sunderland’s battle to keep hold of some of their key assets.

Jobe Bellingham is very much one of those assets.

Earlier this week, We Are Sunderland revealed the first significant interest in Sunderland’s talismanic winger Jack Clarke with newly promoted Southampton set to test the Wearside waters over the 23-year-old who scored 15 times last season on his way to scooping each of the club’s and fans’ player of the year awards last month.

Interest in Clarke is not uncommon, nor is it unexpected, with several clubs from the Premier League, and recently Europe, having shown an interest in the York-born star. Sunderland found themselves in a similar position last summer when then-promoted Burnley attempted to lure Clarke to Turf Moor with Vincent Kompany seeing a £10million bid rejected by Sunderland as Clarke stayed.

And Clarke stayed again in January when there was strong interest from Serie A and Lazio with Maurizio Sarri seeing multiple approaches knocked back as, at that stage, Sunderland still held a vested interest in reaching the Championship’s top six.

This summer, however, things may be a little tougher with regards Clarke.

The winger, who has made 39 goal contributions in the Championship over the course of the last two seasons, the most of any player to have played in both the 2022-23 and 2023-24 campaigns, is going to be highly sought after ahead of next season, with a string of clubs already queuing up. With two-years left on his deal at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland will face a battle on their hands to keep Clarke when considering how much his value may fluctuate beyond this summer.

Away from Clarke, Jobe is one of Sunderland’s next highest commodities.

We Are Sunderland: Jobe Bellingham scored against former club Birmingham City at the Stadium of LightJobe Bellingham scored against former club Birmingham City at the Stadium of Light (Image: Ian Horrocks)

The teenager enjoyed a positive first year on Wearside and second full season in the Championship – a year which has alerted the attention of a number of clubs with interest, again, both domestically and in Europe.

The strongest interest, currently, is from the Premier League and Crystal Palace after reports emerged via The Athletic and global football agent Fabrizio Romano that Oliver Glasner is keen to take the younger Bellingham to Selhurst Park this summer, with Brentford also interested. While brother Jude spent his senior teenage years in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund, Jobe could be set for a similar early trajectory should Palace firm up their interest and pry the versatile 18-year-old from Sunderland.

Palace have developed a reputation for unearthing potential in recent years under Dougie Freedman’s stewardship as sporting director. Since 2017, after Freedman returned to the club he made over 300 appearances for as a player, the 50-year-old has been responsible for several of the club’s transactions, both on the field and in the dugout with head coach appointments. On the field, Freedman has had a hand in the arrivals of the likes of Conor Gallagher and Marc Guéhi from Chelsea, as well as winger’s Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze – all of whom possess huge potential sell-on value in comparison to the fees paid to bring them to Selhurst Park.

Freedman’s latest high-profile acquisition from the Championship came in the January transfer window with Blackburn Rovers’ Adam Wharton. The midfielder completed a move for an initial reported fee of £18m which could rise to over £20m with the 20-year-old already having paid some of that back with an impressive second half to the Premier League season which has seen him called up to Gareth Southgate’s provisional European Championship squad with England – a squad which includes Gallagher, now back with Chelsea, and both Guéhi and Eze of Palace.

Wharton is also understood to be of interest to Bayern Munich this summer following the arrival of Kompany from Burnley. And it’s that potential interest from the Bundesliga side which may explain Palace’s interest in Jobe this summer as they search for a potential early replacement for Wharton, should his career continue on the same upward trajectory.

So, why Jobe?

The teenager has established himself as one of the first names on Sunderland’s team sheet this season but was often the target of some criticisms in the latter part of the campaign with supporters of the belief the 18-year-old was at risk of burnout having made 45 league appearances in his first year with the club, 43 coming as a starter. It was a belief which was emphasised when interim head coach Mike Dodds revealed the club, along with Jobe, had made the decision not to go on international duty in March, instead remaining at the Academy Light for a recovery period.


We Are Sunderland: Jobe Bellingham's minutes played in the Championship this season for SunderlandJobe Bellingham's minutes played in the Championship this season for Sunderland (Image: StatsBomb)

Jobe featured for a total of 3,925 minutes – the sixth most for Sunderland behind Dan Neil (22), Dan Ballard (24), Luke O’Nien (29), Trai Hume (22) and goalkeeper Anthony Patterson (24). Only Leeds United’s Archie Gray, also 18-years-old, featured more than Jobe this season within a similar age range – Gray another player credited with a link to Bayern Munich this summer.

Jobe’s significance was twofold in that it represented where Sunderland found themselves last season in terms of their squad depth given the over-reliance on the teenager, as well as the fact Jobe earned his regular starting berth in the squad with all three head coaches this season: Tony Mowbray, Michael Beale and Dodds. The issue with Jobe’s instant impact over the first half of the season, following last summer’s move from Birmingham City, was that it heightened the expectation on such young shoulders.

Jobe scored his first goals for the club in Sunderland’s first win of the season against Rotherham United before adding to that tally against former side Birmingham when they visited the Stadium of Light in November. The dismissal of Mowbray led to Jobe being utilised as a centre-forward during Dodds’ first spell as interim head coach this season, a move which profited both the club and the player as Sunderland secured back-to-back wins over West Bromwich Albion and Leeds, Jobe scoring the winner against Leeds while wrongfully having one ruled out against West Brom.




Given Sunderland’s collective drop off in form throughout the second half of the season, however, Jobe was tarnished with some of those criticisms – something the 18-year-old considers key learning experiences.

"There's been a lot of ups and downs as there is in any season but, I think for my first season, there's been so much that will stand me in good stead going in to future seasons,” he recently explained in a club interview.

“I've obviously had the privilege of playing for a huge club and a huge fanbase which brings its own pressures and you have to learn to adapt to that as well.

“I feel like I've grown and got even better as a player and as a person. Coming up here, so many people told me what to expect. But you never really understand until you come here. I was kind of wide-eyed about various things; the supporters, the players we had here and the ambition. I'd say it's lived up to all of that. It probably lived up to that in the first few games if I'm honest.”

He continued: “Because I'm part of the club, I feel more driven now. There are things that we need to put right and try and improve. There's been some tough things to take but I wouldn't change anything, because if you did, then you'd change the lessons.

“There's been more highs than lows personally, growth wise, so I wouldn't change anything.

"When you're someone like I am, you want to hit the next milestone and get better and I feel desperate to improve. Sometimes it can make me a bit impatient. There are things I should be proud of myself for. At the same time, I don't want to just stand still and look in the past. I want to make sure I keep improving and getting better. “


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That level-headed maturity is a trait quite clearly instilled throughout the Bellingham family, given how admirably and measured Jude has conducted himself during his exemplary debut season with Real Madrid, with the 20-year-old completing a Spanish La Liga and Champions League double to mark his first year in Spain.

But it’s not just a level-headedness beyond his years that Sunderland would miss if he were to depart the club this summer – a fact which may easily be overlooked given the apathy which set in around the Stadium of Light towards the end of the season. When it comes to some of Jobe’s stats throughout his first season with the club, Sunderland would potentially be losing one of their better players if a deal were to be sanctioned.

If we compare Jobe with the rest of the Sunderland squad, behind Clarke’s total of 15 he was Sunderland’s next highest goalscorer with seven. Only Clarke registered a higher expected goals (xG) metric than him while the 18-year-old was fourth when it comes to key passes with 36, behind only Neil, Patrick Roberts and Clarke.

Those are some of the notable attacking metrics which will draw a little bit of interest, but it is perhaps his defensive work from the front which will raise a lot of eyebrows and highlights just how impressive his work rate is.

Jobe won 90 fouls for Sunderland this season, the second most behind Clarke who was often targeted by multiple defenders. Beyond that, Jobe ranked first in defensive actions (979), aggressive actions (492), pressures (866), possession adjusted pressures (PAdj) (992.22), pressure regains (150), pressures in the opposition half (599) and counter pressures in the opposition half (95). Only Neil ranked higher in total counter pressures with 152 to Jobe’s 131.


We Are Sunderland: StatsBomb scatter chart shows Jobe Bellingham's pressures in correlation with his defensive actionsStatsBomb scatter chart shows Jobe Bellingham's pressures in correlation with his defensive actions (Image: StatsBomb)

It means, despite featuring in seven different positions this season, Jobe retains one of the best outputs in the squad when it comes to his out of possession work in trying to win back possession and defend from the front when pressing high, as shown in the image below.


We Are Sunderland: Jobe Bellingham's defensive action map for Sunderland shows how impressive he has been in leading Sunderland's press from the frontJobe Bellingham's defensive action map for Sunderland shows how impressive he has been in leading Sunderland's press from the front (Image: StatsBomb)

But Jobe’s numbers go beyond defensive measurement and his goals return. Some of the other more notable numbers in comparison to the rest of the Sunderland squad include being ranked fourth for pass completion at 91 per cent – behind only Neil’s 93 per cent in midfield, with centre-back duo O’Nien and Ballard the top two at the club.

Jobe is also ranked fourth in Sunderland’s xG chain, a metric used to credit players for the attacking contributions they make outside of shots and assists, at 20.55 behind Hume, Neil and Clarke who scored 28.49. Simply put, this means Jobe is quite heavily involved in moves which lead to goalscoring opportunities for Sunderland.

Jobe registered the second most touches in the opposition penalty area this season (140) behind Clarke (232) and is ranked No.1 in Sunderland’s squad when it comes to shot on-ball-value (OBV) – a model that contains both decision-making information and shot execution information on a player and their shot.


We Are Sunderland: Jobe Bellingham is ranked No.1 in the Sunderland squad in terms of his shot on-ball-value (OBV)Jobe Bellingham is ranked No.1 in the Sunderland squad in terms of his shot on-ball-value (OBV) (Image: StatsBomb)

Those numbers may seem quite impressive in relation to Sunderland this season, but how do they stack up in comparison to the rest of the Championship?

Let’s look at some of the stats he excelled in with Sunderland, for example. Jobe is ranked sixth in the division for fouls won behind Kenneth McLean (93), Crysencio Summerville (98), Kyle Walker-Peters (112), team-mate Clarke (120) and Georginio Rutter (155) which means he is actively in possession in dangerous areas of the field to draw fouls.

His defending from the front holds up against the rest of the Championship, too. His 979 defensive actions rank eighth in the league with his aggressive actions 13th. Jobe’s 866 pressures see him fourth highest in the Championship, likewise for his PAdj pressures. Only 56 players featured more than his 3,925 total minutes in the Championship this season.

What makes you take a step back and appreciate some of Jobe’s stats further is when you narrow down the field to players within his age bracket. He arrived on Wearside as a 17-year-old who had made 26 senior appearances for Birmingham, which included just five as a starter in the Championship. This season, he has made almost double the number of appearances. Only Leeds's Gray has featured in more minutes in the Championship than Jobe this season of up to 60 players aged up to 19-years-old, as per StatsBomb.


We Are Sunderland: Jobe Bellingham's attacking midfield StatsBomb radar (red) in comparison to the Championship league average (blue)Jobe Bellingham's attacking midfield StatsBomb radar (red) in comparison to the Championship league average (blue) (Image: StatsBomb)

To add to that, only Birmingham’s Jordan James has scored more than Jobe’s seven goals this season, with eight. James, who is 19 and turns 20 this summer, is one of just two players up to the age of 19 who have attempted more dribbles than Jobe’s 39, with Gray, again, the No.1 ranked teenager – Jobe moves up to second in that list when you consider ‘successful’ dribbles.

Beyond that, Jobe is the highest ranked teenager in several stats such as key passes (36), xG and xGA (9.21), fouls won (90), total shots (57), defensive and aggressive actions, pressures and PAdj pressures and counter pressure regains. He ranks second for defensive regains, second for opposition half ball recoveries, second for his shot OBV and fifth for his overall OBV. Again, simply put, Jobe ranks among the very best, if not the best, in the Championship in several metrics of interest among players within his age bracket.

“He can go to the very top,” interim head coach Dodds said of Jobe during his first spell in charge this season. “I’ve worked with a lot of young players and he would be up there with the very best.

“He made a really brave decision to leave Birmingham, the club he supported, where it was his life. He spent the best part of ten years at the academy and to leave showed character. I know it was a really tough decision for him but he had to take the emotion out of it and think about what was best for his career.

“Thankfully, from our perspective, it looks like he’s made the right decision.”

Another of Jobe’s key attributes is something which can also be considered a little bit of a hindrance and that is his positioning. As yet, Sunderland have been unable to truly identify where the 18-year-old is best suited, with Jobe having featured in as many as seven different positions this season across each side of defensive midfield and central midfield, as well as in the N0.10 position, wider on the left and as a centre-forward.

Jobe’s most prominent position this season came as a striker, particularly under Dodds’ two spells as interim head coach coupled with the struggles Sunderland endured with their other forward players.


We Are Sunderland: Jobe Bellingham's starting positions for Sunderland during the 2023-24 Championship seasonJobe Bellingham's starting positions for Sunderland during the 2023-24 Championship season (Image: StatsBomb)

Jobe’s coming of age performance came in a rare away win at the Cardiff City Stadium on Good Friday where he led the forward line with a maturity beyond his years while also getting his name on the scoresheet in a 2-0 victory.

“I think he can be anything he wants to be, to be honest,” Dodds said following that win over Cardiff City. “I have had some private conversations with Jobe about his best position and my thoughts on that, and that will stay private between us.

“Jobe's an 18-year-old who has to carry the weight of his brother, which is sometimes unfair. If you take that to one side, you've just seen an 18-year-old who should be playing youth team football performing exceptionally well. It was a big performance from him.

“Jobe is the kind of kid who is a coach’s dream," he added. "He'll play anywhere you want. If I asked him to go in goal then he'd just crack on with it. I think the group probably needed a little bit more of a physical presence at the top of the pitch and what he has got that not many other number nines in this league will have is unbelievable quality with his feet – he’s like a centre-midfielder playing up front that has the physical attributes to do it.

"We should be really excited about the performance because he has been moved around a huge amount this season, and I think that's now seven goals for an 18-year-old in the Championship - it's unbelievable when you look at it from a statistical point of view.”

They are statistics which have alerted the interest of a number of clubs, particularly Palace and Brentford.

Palace’s interest is of intrigue given the aforementioned situation regarding Wharton, a player who you could argue has taken a similar path as Jobe – two-years on. Wharton progressed through the ranks at Blackburn before making 18 appearances in the 2022-23 Championship campaign, 12 as a starter. He followed that up with 26 appearances in the first half of this season, 22 of which came as a starter, contributing two goals and three assists before an £18m switch to Crystal Palace in January.

If we compare both Jobe’s and Wharton’s StatsBomb radar’s, however, it emphasises further potential in the Sunderland teenager, given the path Wharton has gone onto forge for himself over the course of the last 12 months. When analysing the ‘midfield’ radar, it’s clear to see Wharton (blue) excels in a number of categories compared to Jobe (red), bettering him in seven of the 11 categories. Interestingly, however, Jobe’s 90-minute average this season betters Wharton’s at Blackburn for pass completion percentage, pressures, pressure regains and fouls won.


We Are Sunderland: Jobe Bellingham (red) midfield radar in comparison with Adam Wharton's time with Blackburn Rovers (blue)Jobe Bellingham (red) midfield radar in comparison with Adam Wharton's time with Blackburn Rovers (blue) (Image: StatsBomb)

If we move that on to an attacking midfield radar, a position Jobe started in on nine occasions this season, he outscores Wharton 8-3. Metrics such as xG, shots and box crosses are values measured in this area of the field compared to an outright midfielder


We Are Sunderland: Jobe Bellingham (red) attacking radar in comparison with Adam Wharton's time with Blackburn Rovers (blue)Jobe Bellingham (red) attacking radar in comparison with Adam Wharton's time with Blackburn Rovers (blue) (Image: StatsBomb)

Having considered Wharton’s most common position of central midfield, it is fair to include a comparison for Jobe’s most utilised position this season at centre-forward, too. This radar, again, sees Jobe outnumber Wharton 8-3, with successful dribbles, turnovers and open play xGA the three metrics Wharton averaged better in during his first half of the season.


We Are Sunderland: Jobe Bellingham (red) striker radar in comparison with Adam Wharton's time with Blackburn Rovers (blue)Jobe Bellingham (red) striker radar in comparison with Adam Wharton's time with Blackburn Rovers (blue) (Image: StatsBomb)

With Jobe likely considered to be a more advanced player than Wharton, there are certain numbers he will need to see an improvement on, such as that open play xGA and dribble success rate, as well as a reduction in his number of turnovers. And yet to produce the numbers, on average, that he has at this early stage of his career shows a clear sign of the huge potential he possesses.

“I think he can get double figures next year, regardless of what position he plays," said Dodds. “That will be an easy target for him. He’ll be 18, going on 19, that would be a huge achievement as a first-year pro.

“He’s scored seven goals which for a second-year scholar is unbelievable. I always reference the point he should be playing youth team football and when you use that as the marker, you realise how talented he is. I think he’s had a really successful year.

"In twelve months’ time there'll hopefully be a little bit more clarity for him, the fans and everyone at the football club [on his position].

“I would like, positionally, for him to have been more consistent, but for him to have been utilised in so many positions at this level at such a young age is a huge marker for what his future potentially has for him.”

Speaking on his own preference when it comes to his positioning, Jobe put the ball firmly in the court of Sunderland’s decision-makers.

“It’s up to the coaches to figure out where my attributes fit the team best. I’m not a***d where I play really, as long as I’m in red and white that’s fine,” he said following his man of the match display in South Wales. “At the minute, I’m just learning really because I have no idea what position I am, but I suppose that’s quite exciting in a way because I’ll find out as the years go on and what I enjoy doing the most.”

We Are Sunderland: Crystal Palace have created a reputation for signing promising young players from the Championship including Adam Wharton from Blackburn RoversCrystal Palace have created a reputation for signing promising young players from the Championship including Adam Wharton from Blackburn Rovers (Image: PA)

The links with clubs at a higher level and across Europe highlight the progress the younger Bellingham has made in his debut season on Wearside. Rightly or wrongly, the affinity with his brother’s success will also hold some value. In that sense, Sunderland have marketed Jobe immeasurably, allowing him to blossom into his own name on the back of the shirt. But clubs such as Crystal Palace and Brentford are often ones held up in esteem when it comes to their recruitment and philosophy – particularly Brentford and how they succeeded in gaining promotion to the Premier League and establishing themselves in the top flight. It suggests that Sunderland have a player of huge potential on their hands.

What’s also clear is that any deal to take Jobe away from the Stadium of Light is likely to be a sizable one. Sunderland have routinely reiterated, whether it be head coaches Beale or Dodds, or sporting director Kristjaan Speakman, that they are in no rush to offload any of their key assets.

Jobe’s contractual situation remains undisclosed although it is believed there are a number of years to run on the deal signed last summer, with several reports also suggesting there is a sell-on fee incorporated into the contract which means Birmingham will be entitled to a percentage of any fee received. Data service Transfermarkt values Jobe at £12m in the current market, a £3m increase from the £9m he was valued at earlier this season. Sunderland have already held firm on concrete offers regarding Clarke in the past – those sums believed to have been £10m and £15m at various stages over the course of the last 12 months – which means they are likely to do similar over Jobe.

"It's got to be right for the football club,” said Dodds. “All those players are under contract. I don't know the exact ins and outs, but they have lengthy contracts so the club are in a strong position.

"It's really clear that if anyone wants to come and take a Sunderland player then they're going to have to pay the premium because whoever it is, you're talking about a young player who has already done well but still has the potential to develop further.

"You're also talking about a player with time on their contract so when you put those three things together, it's clear that you would have to pay a premium."

Whether Crystal Palace, Brentford or any other club meets an acceptable valuation of Jobe this summer remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that Sunderland, although they may not know it, would miss the 18-year-old if he were to leave.