Wales midfielder Jordan James says he knew his former Birmingham colleague Jude Bellingham was destined for stardom “from an early age”.

England international Bellingham joined Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund on a six-year deal on Wednesday, with the Spanish giants paying an initial 103million euros (£88.5m) for the 19-year-old.

James (pictured right) is a year younger than Bellingham but the pair were often team-mates in making their way through the various age groups at St Andrew’s.

Asked if he thought Bellingham would reach the top, James said: “You knew from an early age. He was a level above everyone else.

“He was the main guy and it was the same at the World Cup, he was the best player for me.

“When I joined at eight years old, I used to go up and play with him, and you could see the way he dribbles and how technically gifted he was.

“He wasn’t a big grower like me either. It was just before he turned 15 that he had his growth spurt, and now he’s turned into a man. That’s what helped him a lot.

“We’ve got different attributes, it’s hard to compare myself to someone who’s at the top already and that’s where I’m trying to get to.

“But we’ve been brought up the same way, in the same club, with the same philosophies, so hopefully I can reach that height.”

Bellingham became Birmingham’s youngest ever first-team player in July 2019 at the age of 16 years and 38 days.

James was not too far behind making his Birmingham debut at the age of 17 years and 142 days and he has already made more than 50 senior appearances.

He was born in Hereford and twice represented England Under-20s before choosing to play for the land of his father, the former Newport defender Tony.

“The opportunity was there with England and I wanted to try something new,” said James, who travelled and trained with the Wales squad at the World Cup in Qatar.

“It was nothing against Wales, I love the country to bits. The opportunity came, but I knew straight away when I stepped foot on the pitch for England it didn’t feel the same.

“My dad is Welsh through and through, he’s put it into me. When I put that Wales shirt on, something special happens.”