Serbia head coach Dragan Stojkovic reckons England star Jude Bellingham will one day win the Ballon d’Or, and jokingly hopes he won’t make Sunday’s clash.

The Balkan nation is through to the continental finals for the first time as an independent nation and kick off Group C against one of the tournament favourites.

Serbia have pledged to make life hard for England in Gelsenkirchen but are wary of their opponent’s star names, with none shining brighter than Real Madrid midfielder Bellingham.

The 20-year-old ended a dream first season in Spain with Champions League glory, with Sunday set to be his first match since winning the Wembley final a fortnight ago.

“It’s better that he does not play! Let’s see tomorrow,” Serbia boss Stojkovic said. “He’s a great boy, he’s a future Golden Ball, I think. Definitely.

“It’s impressive how he played and what he showed in a Real Madrid jersey. He’s very young but he’s so powerful and we have to be careful.

“We have to close the space, not give him too much free time to control the ball and penetrate the space in front of him.

“He’s a very important player for the English team. Definitely.

“But we will see tomorrow. Defensively we need to be very careful, and we have to show what we did during our training sessions to stop this kind of dangerous situation.

“But it’s very impressive and how he plays. He’s a very, very young guy. An unbelievable performance, really.

“Good for England, bad for us. But we will do our best to control this kind of situation.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Serbia captain Dusan Tadic.

“He’s a great player, one of the biggest talents,” he said. “Definitely he will be one of the biggest threats to us, but what our coach said, we will do our best to try to avoid him and to stop him as much as possible.”

Tadic is Serbia’s main man, having shone at Ajax and Fenerbahce since ending an impressive four-year stint at Southampton in 2018.

England were at a low ebb during his time in the Premier League, but the 35-year-old says the national team’s dynamics have changed since then, thanks in no small part to elite coaching at club level.

“It’s a totally different national team now to when I was playing in England,” Tadic said.

“This is a new generation, but I think it’s also very important the coaches you bring to the Premier League. For example, (Pep) Guardiola, (Mikel) Arteta.

“They improved so many players and raised them really high. I think a lot of players grow with these coaches and they are now one of the top players.

“Definitely this is one of the biggest reasons, plus their talent.

“I think now you have different profiles of the player.

“Before you had like really good number eight players, like box-to-box with a good shot and good passing, and now you have more kind of number 10 and really creative players.”