Twenty years from now, when we deliberate over the identity of the greatest English player of all time, there is every chance that we will conclude that it is Jude Bellingham.
This is not an exaggeration, nor a knee-jerk reaction to what was a jaw-dropping World Cup debut here at Khalifa Stadium.
This is just an obvious statement of fact; a realistic observation for an impressive young man who has the world at his feet.
Jude Bellingham opened the scoring in England’s 6-2 win over Iran in their World Cup opener
Steven Gerrard’s box-to-box dynamism, a Frank Lampard-like eye for goal and Paul Scholes’ passing range. The complete package. He knows it too.
Not in an arrogant way, but in a way that exudes ultimate confidence in his abilities.
Bellingham had just scored his first goal for England and it just so happened to be his debut in world football’s most famous competition.
Not that you would have known judging by Bellingham’s reaction. There was no frantic celebration; Bellingham – stoney faced – simply ran for the corner flag before throwing his arms in the air to receive the adulation of England’s support.
Almost as if it were a daily occurrence. It was the measure of a teenager who continues to show maturity well beyond his 19th birthday.
It was the mark of the man – if we can call him that – who knows he belongs on the biggest stage of all.
It was a great performance from a midfielder who is not yet 20
Fortunately for us, he is English.
It wasn’t just his goal that set him apart here in Doha on Monday. Within two minutes, Bellingham had the ball back before firing a precise 40-yard pass into Kieran Trippier’s path.
Moments later, he effortlessly escaped the attentions of the Iranian midfielder with a slight drop from his shoulder before smashing another ball into Luke Shaw.
In the 55th minute, with the game already won as England advanced in search of a fourth, Bellingham had the awareness and discipline to maintain their position, thwarting what would have been an Iranian counterattack dangerous.
Later in the second half, he came on as centre-back as England were momentarily reduced to 10 men in the absence of Harry Maguire, who had limped after taking a blow to the head.
He displayed an impressive range of passes, worked hard and took his goal well
His goal, a superbly executed header that passed hapless Iranian goalkeeper Majid Hosseini, was just the icing on the cake of a performance that should petrify any team at the World Cup.
Not just for this tournament either. Bellingham is England’s present and future – for at least the next 12 years.
It’s up to him how good he wants to be. But by all accounts, the young man from Bellingham who has his head screwed – stayed on the straight and narrow for his police officer father Mark.
You don’t succeed in moving to Germany at 17 like Bellingham does if you tend to lose focus.
His performance during the opening of the English tournament will not have surprised the best clubs in European football. They all know how good he is. They know how good he can be.
Bukayo Saka was another youngster to feature on the England scoresheet, bagging a brace
Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United will all compete to sign Bellingham when Borussia Dortmund are finally ready to sell him, a moment which could come as soon as this summer. Real Madrid are also watching closely.
It will come at a huge cost, surely in excess of £100million – even more after what happened here on Monday.
But that’s all for the future, Bellingham’s present helps England win the World Cup.
Can’t win anything with the kids? Bellingham categorically refutes this theory.
Just like Bukayo Saka. Just like Mason Mount. Just like Declan Rice. Just like Phil Foden.
These children are more than fine; they are world beaters – and Bellingham is arguably the best of the lot.
Gareth Southgate players got off to a great start to the tournament
The pessimists will say that we are getting ahead. They will say “there is only Iran”.
Well, they would be wrong. These children are truly special. They might not forgive us for calling them England’s next golden generation – but that’s exactly what they are.
If this World Cup is going to be Gareth Southgate’s last hurrah, then whoever replaces him will have landed on his feet.
And in Bellingham, England have a hugely talented footballer who can lead England to history here in Qatar and beyond.