In the footsteps of Vincent Kompany: Youri Tielemans
Youri Tielemans, Belgian wonderkid of RSC Anderlecht, wrote history in Belgian and European football. He is with his 16 years, 4 months and 25 days the youngest Belgian player ever in the Champions League. Number two is Anthony Vanden Borre and number three is nobody else then Vince, the Prince, Kompany; all three players from RSC Anderlecht. The club have placed a greater focus on their own youth players moving forward because buying top players is becoming an impossible task for low budget teams in Europe. Spending €5.000.000 for one player, like they did for Aleksandar Mitrovic, is the absolute maximum they will go.
Since Lucas Biglia arrived at Brussels in 2006, Anderlecht has won four league titles, one Belgian Cup and four Belgian Supercups. Not bad you would say. In Belgium, especially the press and some analysts, people were and are still thinking that Biglia was an overestimated player. The problem was that Lucas Biglia is a real number 6, a defending midfielder per say. He became too important for Anderlecht and that’s why people started to expect more from him. They saw him as a number 6, 8 and 10 and sometimes he even succeeded doing that. In his years at Anderlecht, the club never had a real playmaker until Dennis Praet knocked on their door. ThenLucas Biglia left Anderlecht and the problems started in midfield for “Les Mauves”.
Youri Tielemans, a boy of only 16 years old, is according to the press the perfect replacement for Biglia. Well, he can become his successor but Tielemans is better as a central midfielder with somebody like Lucas Biglia next or behind him. Tielemans could have learned a lot if he had the chance of playing one year next to Biglia. Enough about Lucas Biglia as this article is an open letter for everybody to show how huge the talent of Youri Tielemans is, bigger than the man he has taken over from. I compare the talent of Tielemans of that with Vincent Kompany. Both players have the same flair you expect from a youth player of Anderlecht. They combine pace and technique with personality. Tielemans is like a chess player, he’s three steps ahead of his contenders. If he keeps his head cool he could travel the same journey as Vincent Kompany did.
The young Belgian player joined Anderlecht when he was five years old. Purple blood is in his veins since he was a little kid. He and Anderlecht are lucky that his parents, like the parents of Romelu Lukaku and Vincent Kompany decided some years ago , want him to finish school first before moving to a foreign club. This was probably the only way for Anderlecht to keep their talented midfielder. A player under the age of 18 can only sign a three year deal but Anderlecht is already happy that Tielemans signed a professional contract. AC Milan and FC Barcelona are one of the few teams who already showed interest in the young pupil of Anderlecht but at this moment Roger Vanden Stock, President of RSC Anderlecht, will only sell him for an astronomical transfer fee.
In Belgium a lot of people compare him with Axel Witsel. I can understand the comparison as both players, despite their technique and flair, are also tanks in midfield. Youri Tielemans is certainly not the biggest and strongest of the team but he goes for every ball. The different between him and Witsel is that Tielemans has an amazing crossing pass for somebody of his age. At this time, Tielemans, can only dream of the status that Witsel has but one day we’ll see them together at the centre of the national team. Axel Witsel started his career as an attacking midfielder and sometimes he even played as a winger at Standard Liège. At that time, Steven Defour, was the lieutenant general of the Standard Liège. Later in his career Witsel transformed into a real defending midfielder. Youri Tielemans is, from what I think, at his best as a central midfielder or a number 8 as we say.
In the Belgian media there was some fuss about the physical capabilities of Youri Tielemans. People suggested that Youri Tielemans was not (yet) made for a professional career. Well, he’s only 16 years old, of course he has a long way to go before he can play 50+ matches a season. The problem is that Anderlecht already needs him now as he’s the best midfielder they have at the moment. Anderlecht bought Luka Milivojevic, who still deserves some time to adapt, and loaned Demy De Zeeuw to replace Lucas Biglia. The latter is only a shadow of the player he was at his time with Ajax. Milivojevic on the other hand is a miscalcuation from the Anderlecht scouts. Not because of his talent but because Milivojevic isn’t a defending midfielder. Anderlecht already admit they made a mistake and they will buy a real replacement for Lucas Biglia in January.
What will the future bring for Youri Tielemans? Well, this season he just has to learn and enjoy his matches in the Champions League. Next year should be the same for a 17 year old midfielder but something says to me that he could already become an important player for Anderlecht by then. Maybe by January if Anderlecht succeeds in finding a proper defending midfielder. His mentality is good and he’s not afraid to lead his team to a victory. Some weeks ago he claimed to give a free kick when Dennis Praet wanted to take him. They discussed it but Tielemans took the free kick. Dennis Praet was unhappy about that after the match but it shows us how strong Tielemans is.
Belgium can’t complain about their current generation but I think that the next one could also be a golden generation. Youngsters as Adnan Januzaj, Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, Zakaria Bakkali, Maxime Lestienne, Thorgan Hazard, Junior Malanda, Andreas Pereira and Youri Tielemans are only a few gifted players of our next generation. Of course you have to be lucky to have so many talented players and you can’t raise a golden generation without having talent. Belgium is, like other European countries, also lucky to have the possibility to fish in a bigger pool because of the mixture of all nationalities.
Like I said, write down the name of Youri Tielemans, and we will have a lot to speak about within the next ten years as we meet again. This is one of these players you only see sporadically in the “Constant Vanden Stock” stadium. Like Vincent Kompany, everybody knew from the first match he played in the Anderlecht shirt that he would become a true football star.