Jupiler Pro League Revelations 4: Björn Engels
Björn Engels got his first minutes of his football career from Georges Leekens, the former Belgium national coach. Club Brugge were losing 2-0 against Bordeaux in the Europa League and Leekens thought it was time to bring in a youngster and give them some game time in a pressure situation. Perhaps it wasn’t Leekens smartest decision as Engels was unlucky and ended up scoring an own goal. We wouldn’t see Engels start a game again that season.
Lately Club Brugge have been the only top club in Belgium who haven’t produced a lot of their own youth talents from their academy. Anderlecht, Standard Liège and Racing Genk are all famous for their youth academies in Europe, in fact they are vital for the teams survival. Club Brugge felt that they urgently needed to rectify their philosophy, and so club president Bart Verhaeghe has two main goals, firstly to build a new stadium and secondly, improve Club Brugge’s youth system, on top of winning prizes of course.This season Club Brugge played with one of the youngest defending lines of all teams in the Pro League: goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, Thomas Meunier, Brandon Mechele, Björn Engels and Laurens De Bock. All of them talented youngsters who have made a good impression this season. Ryan and Engels in particular can look back at a great individual season.
Up until 2006 Engels played for Sporting Lokeren and it was there that Club Brugge spotted his talent and asked him to move to their youth academy. Today we all know Engels as a purely central defender but he was more of an attacking player in his younger years and transformed from an attacker to a defender during his youth. This process made him a complete defender, not only is he developed in his defensive skills where he anticipates the game very well but he knows how an attacker thinks from his time playing those positions. In addition to his great reading of the game Engels also possesses a good header, great tackling skills and manages to scores from time to time.
The defender got his first minutes this season against KV Oostende. Engels had an immediate impact on his team after scoring a header against the team known as the “Coastboys”, and his side went on to win the game 2-1. Michel Preud’homme believed in Engels and would make him the leader of his defence despite his young age. Already played more than 2800 minutes this season and scoring 4 goals in the Jupiler Pro League Engels has taken just seven yellow cards and one red card.
Club Brugge have heavily relied on the central pairing of their aforementioned young defensive line. Brandon Mechele and Engels have done a great job and coach Preud’homme always had the intention to continue with the two youngsters. Due to some injury problems both Mechele and Engels have missed some games which is to expected from a long season, and it was during their absence that their team came to miss their presence, Oscar Duarte and Timmy Simons were only ever a temporary solution.U21 coach Johan Walem was so impressed by the central defender’s performances and called him up for the squad. Together with centre back team mate Brandon Mechele he had the chance to play against the best youngsters in Europe. Walem is a big fan of Club Brugge’s central duo and finds they’re very mature for their age. Both players, together with Dino Arslanagic, have a big chance to for a spot in Marc Wilmots’ Belgian national squad.
Club Brugge ended third this season which is enough for a Europa League berth. Engels will have a chance to show that his own goal against Bordeaux was only an “accident de parcours” or an unlucky change from coach Georges Leekens.
For Engels he definitely seems like a player who could become the leader of Club Brugge over the next years, the 19-years old defender is very mature for his age and certainly seems to have it in him to lead his team to beautiful things. Club Brugge’s Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan already said that he feels very comfortable when Björn Engels plays and while the experienced Timmy Simons is the currently captain of Club Brugge, I have the feeling that Björn Engels could possibly take over his role next season.