Ex-England youth star Felix Nmecha ran the show for Borussia Dortmund against Newcastle after replacing Jude Bellingham – but after declaring for Germany, will the Three Lions regret letting him slip through their fingers?
- Felix Nmecha – and his brother Lukas – both represented England at youth level
- The German played alongside Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden for England’s U16s
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He has replaced Jude Bellingham for club, but he could have been his team-mate for country.
Felix Nmecha, 23, is the midfielder Borussia Dortmund have trusted to fill the sizeable shoes of Bellingham following his £113million move to Real Madrid in the summer.
And judging by the way he ran the Champions League show at St James’ Park on Wednesday night, you wonder how England might come to regret letting him slip through the net.
Despite being born in Hamburg, Nmecha was eligible to play for Three Lions via residency rules having moved to Manchester with his family when he was six.
Two years later, he joined the academy at Manchester City alongside his older brother Lukas, now a 25-year-old striker with Wolfsburg.
Felix Nmecha scored the only goal of the game as Newcastle fell to a Champions League loss to Borussia Dortmund
Nmecha was signed for £25million to replace the Real Madrid-bound Jude Bellingham over the summer
Nmecha (left) had been a star for England’s youth sides before declaring for Germany last year
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Nmecha made his first-team debut for City aged 18 in their Carabao Cup semi-final at Burton in January 2019 and played twice more two seasons later – in the Champions League against Olympiakos and FA Cup against Birmingham.
But at the same time he was coming through the ranks and impressing at the Etihad, Nmecha was also progressing and turning heads at St George’s Park. He made his England bow with the Under 16s in October 2015, starting ahead of the benched Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho.
After switching to Germany for U18s, he returned to play for the country where he resided at U19s level, lining up alongside Bukayo Saka and Conor Gallagher.
At this stage, he and his brother, who scored the winner for England against Portugal when they won the Euro U19s in 2017, had given no reason to think they saw their international futures away from the Three Lions.
However, after Lukas pledged his allegiance to Germany in 2019, the FA feared his sibling would follow suit. And the writing was on the wall when the brothers moved back to the country of their birth in July 2021, signing for Wolfsburg from City just five days apart from each other.
Confirmation of Felix’s international switch eventually came from FIFA in February last year, and he went on to score for Germany U21s in a 3-1 defeat against his old England team-mates – including Anthony Gordon, who he played on Wednesday – at Bramall Lane last September.
‘It was the right decision,’ Nmecha said after that match. ‘I went with my heart. In the future, I want to play for the senior national team with my brother Lukas.’
One half of that wish came true for Nmecha in March when he made his full Germany debut against Belgium. But he is yet to line up for his country with his brother, who has been unable to add to his seven caps since being ruled out of last year’s World Cup through injury.
Against Eddie Howe’s side he was the star of the show for the victorious travelling German side
Nmecha came through the ranks at Manchester City alongside his brother Lukas
For the younger Nmecha, more caps are sure to come if he continues the form he has shown in recent weeks following a difficult start at Dortmund.
The devout Christian was at the centre of a storm when he arrived at the Westfalenstadion in a £25m move from Wolfsburg, with some fans protesting against his signing after he shared alleged homophobic and transphobic posts on social media.
On the pitch, he was initially largely reduced to a role as a sub, but he has since become a consistent starter. And he finally bagged his first goal with the winner against Newcastle in the Champions League on Wednesday, opening up his body on the edge of the box to expertly steer in Nico Schlotterbeck’s cut back.
‘Felix is a brilliant player,’ said boss Edin Terzic after his side’s 1-0 victory at St James’ Park. ‘We know about his potential and we know about his latent. We knew that he could improve our game.
‘Today he had a fantastic game. Today he finally managed to score because he had many opportunities in the first games of the season.
‘He had a great impact. It was a different role for him. He played more advanced, more attacking.
‘It was a rocky start for him in Dortmund. He had some minor injuries in pre-season. But now he is in good form, he is in good shape and hopefully he can continue like this.’
If Nmecha is the one that got away from England, the same can be said about Newcastle. For Eddie Howe was interested in signing the tall and athletic box-to-box midfielder in the summer.
In 2023 Nmecha made his sole appearance for the German national team having featured three times for the U21s
Gareth Southgate’s side could be left to rue the decision to let Nmecha slip through the net
Dortmund are now second in the Champions League group, ahead of Newcastle on head-to-head record alone
Instead, he ended up buying Sandro Tonali, who is about to be banned for 10 months because of illegal betting.
‘He is a player we looked at and we really liked, but he is at Dortmund now,’ lamented Howe when asked about Nmecha after Wednesday’s match.
Upon landing Nmecha as Bellingham’s replacement, Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl hailed him as ‘a fast, technically savvy and physically strong player who will add to our midfield with his profile both going forward and defensively’.
In other words, he is a bit like Bellingham. It is just a shame we will never see them together in an England shirt.
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