Clotet offers no assurances over in-demand Bellingham

Birmingham head coach Pep Clotet refused to confirm wonderkid Jude Bellingham will stay this month after scoring in their 1-1 draw against Cardiff at St. Andrew’s.

The 16-year-old midfielder, who put Blues ahead with his fourth goal of the season, has been linked with a move to Manchester United after playing 24 games in his debut season.

Clotet was unable to reassure fans Bellingham will still be at the club when the transfer window shuts, but believes he is in the best place to develop.

The Spaniard said: “I don’t know. I do have the feeling Jude will stay.

“He is very happy here and he knows it’s one of the right steps for his progression.

“He has played more than 20 games for us and that has a value.”

Clotet is unsure whether Birmingham could resist a big bid for Bellingham because of their financial position.

“Because I am not the manager, in my position as head coach, it is difficult to evaluate,” he said.

But Clotet is aware that Bellingham is a hot property.

“He has been watched since he was 13 or 14,” he added. “For the Middlesbrough game, half of Europe was here. He is used to it.”

Clotet believes Bellingham – who under FA rules cannot sign a professional contract until his 17th birthday on June 29 – has not been distracted by the speculation about his future.

“Jude is very focused on his job and I have never seen him distracted,” he said.

Cardiff claimed a penalty for Marc Roberts’s challenge on Lee Tomlin in the 56th minute.

But Clotet disagreed, saying: “Tomlin complained for the penalty when he had no other options and I think it would have been a little bit soft. I agree with the referee not to give it.”

Cardiff manager Neil Harris felt the spot-kick should have been given.

“At the time I thought it was a penalty. When you’ve got their player saying ‘We got away with that one, the ref’s had a disaster there’, you know it’s a penalty.

“I spoke to the referee straight after the game and he said he thought Lee left his leg in there, so contact was our player’s fault.

“So it’s not up to Lee to get his legs out of the way – if there’s contact, it’s a foul.”

Harris also thought Birmingham substitute Gary Gardner should have been sent off rather than booked for a tackle on Gavin Whyte in the 84th minute.

“If Sean Morrison is getting sent off at Leeds, then that has to be a red card,” he said.

“Jazz Richards was booked for a late tackle, that has to be a red.

“It’s not about (wanting) players to be sent off, or asking the ref to send players off, it’s about numerical advantage and trying to win games of football.”

Clotet countered: “I don’t think it was a sending-off. The ref was close and the linesman was there and they saw it very clearly.”

Bellingham gave Blues a fourth-minute lead and was denied by goalkeeper Alex Smithies as Blues dominated the first half, while Jeremie Bela hit the bar.

But Cardiff responded strongly after the break and Tomlin deservedly levelled in the 63rd minute while Joe Bennett fired inches wide.

But Lukas Jutkiewicz could have snatched victory for Blues only to be denied by Smithies.

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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