Athletic Club captain Iker Muniain was not impressed. With a disciplinary wag of his finger, he told Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham: “You don’t do that here.”
It was a sentiment echoed by the furious masses packed into San Mames, Athletic’s cathedral of a stadium, as they watched Bellingham gaze into the throng of flesh, eyes fixed and arms outstretched.
Seconds after marking his Madrid debut with a goal, amid the fury of a fanbase at a club that is most closely associated with Spain’s La Furia ethos, Bellingham had the coolness of mind and character to stop, stand and stare.
Athletic’s players and fans may not have liked Bellingham’s iconic celebration but plenty of others did. Soon everyone in Madrid’s training ground was copying Bellingham. Vinicius Junior took it onto the pitch against Almeria, only after the man himself had scored the first two goals of the night.
Bellingham-mania has even stretched beyond the pitches of La Liga. Carlos Alcaraz, world number two and Madrid fan, replicated the move after reaching the US Open semi-finals in September.
However, Bellingham’s swaggering stand has existed long before his move to Real Madrid transformed the pose into a global phenomenon.
Bellingham’s goal output exploded upon his arrival to Real Madrid but he has always had that striker’s instinct coursing through his veins. Bellingham’s father Mark, who was teased by his son for tearing up during his Real Madrid presentation, scored more than 700 goals in a non-League career conducted while serving as a sergeant for West Midlands Police.
On his first league start for Birmingham City, barely two months after turning 16 in 2019, Bellingham found the back of Stoke City’s net via a meaty deflection. Overcome by such a momentous occasion, the teenager instinctively skidded onto his knees before being swarmed by his senior teammates.
On his very next appearance, Bellingham strode onto a cutback and picked out the bottom corner. After plenty of time to think about his composed finish, Birmingham’s number 22 had the presence of mind to stop in front of his adoring away fans and thrust his arms wide open. And so it begins.
Despite his tender years and relative lack of goals, Bellingham has not been limited to just the one iconic celebration.
The only teenager in England’s World Cup squad out in Qatar was comfortably one of his nation’s best performers. Arguably his most impressive outing came in the first knockout round against Senegal, driving through the heart of the African champions to carve open both of England’s first-half goals.
Bellingham daintily fired the ball back from the byline, a pass even the chugging Jordan Henderson was tempted to crash the penalty box to reach.
Henderson steamed over to his compatriot, lost in the adrenaline of scoring on the global stage and jutted his forehead towards the teenager. A surprised Bellingham explained: “To be honest he got so, like, close and I was thinking: ‘Right, if this is what we are going to do we have to commit, don’t we?’ So I went and he went really hard you know, proper hard, like right there.”
A year earlier, Bellingham had his first sip of beer captured on camera while celebrating one of Erling Haaland’s many, many goals for Borussia Dortmund. With one arm wrapped around the Norwegian’s neck, Bellingham instinctively flung out his left hand to catch a plastic cup tumbling down from the away section of Bayer Leverkusen’s ground.
In one flowing motion, Bellingham caught the frosty beverage and took a swig. Four months earlier, Bellingham revealed that his celebratory drink of choice after Borussia Dortmund won the DFB Pokal was a Capri Sun and his opportunism against Leverkusen seemed to only cement his preference for fruit juice.
No sooner had the suds touched his tastebuds did Bellingham spit the liquid out of his mouth. “Perfect day for my first beer,” he wrote on social media after the match. “Not a fan.”