Ancelotti: Bellingham ‘obviously’ world’s best

Carlo Ancelotti said that Jude Bellingham is “obviously” the best player in the world on Friday, as Real Madrid prepare to begin the defence of their Copa del Rey trophy.

Madrid travel to fourth-tier Arandina CF on Saturday in the round of 32 in their first involvement in this year’s competition, after lifting the cup last May in Seville.

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Ancelotti said Bellingham — who has scored 17 goals in all competitions so far this season — will feature as part of a strong Real Madrid squad, with Toni Kroos, Aurélien Tchouaméni and Vinícius Júnior the only regular starters rested.

The CIES Football Observatory has ranked Bellingham as the most valuable player in world football with an estimated asking price — were he available for transfer — of €267.5m ($292m).

“[Bellingham] is doing very well,” Ancelotti said, when asked if the chart-topping England star was the best in the world right now. “He’s done well in the first half of the season. Bearing in mind that he’s had to adapt to our club, to a new culture and language, he’s done very well. For us, obviously he’s the best.”

Madrid beat Osasuna 2-1 in last season’s final to lift their 20th Copa del Rey trophy — only Barcelona and Athletic Club have won more.

Saturday’s opponents Arandina are based in the city of Aranda de Duero, in Castile and Leon in northern Spain. They eliminated LaLiga side Cádiz in the second round in December.

“We’re the reigning champions,” Ancelotti said. “This competition gave us a lot of happiness last year and we’ll start off trying to win it… Only three [players] won’t play: Kroos, who has a little problem, Tchouameni and Vinícius, who has to complete his recovery. The others travel, and all of them could play.

“[Eduardo] Camavinga is available. [Ferland] Mendy is still missing, he’ll be in the squad for the Supercopa… Arda Güler is available. He’s an option to start the game.”

Ancelotti has twice won the Copa del Rey as Madrid coach, beating Barcelona 2-1 in an El Clásico final in 2014 thanks to a late wondergoal from Gareth Bale, before last season’s victory over Osasuna.

“We’ve got [to the final] twice and both times we’ve had a lot of happiness,” Ancelotti said. “It was unforgettable in Valencia [in 2014] and in Seville [last year].”

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