Jupiler Pro League’s best youngsters and future European stars
Imagine a team of future stars currently playing in the Pro League, born only in 1991 or after. A team of players already hyped as the best youngsters in the league who are expected to become famous all over the continent. That is what we have created. We’ve picked the best eleven players who still play in the Jupiler Pro League at this moment. Besides Youri Tielemans, who’s one of the few young defending midfielders in Belgium, we only took players who have performed very well this season. This means that we left out some very talented players; for example it was very difficult to keep Dennis Praet out of the team but based on his performances this season, due to himself and due to tactical choices from John van den Brom, he doesn’t deserve to be in our team.
We also left Thorgan Hazard from Zulte Waregem out of the team. The only reason for this is that the winner of the Golden Boot of 2013 is officially a player of Chelsea and not from a Belgian club.
Mathew Ryan, Goalkeeper Club Brugge
Certainly the revelation of Club Brugge this season. When Club Brugge bought Ryan last summer nobody in Belgium had ever heard of the Australian goalkeeper. After some months we can already say that the scouts of Club Brugge did an excellent job. We already wonder how long Club Brugge will be able to keep their goalkeeper. Mathew Ryan, a big Arsenal fan, dreams about the Premier League. If he keeps on playing like this, things could go quick for him.
This summer, Mathew Ryan will be able to show himself to the world. He will play at the World Cup in Brazil with Australia and will face the Netherlands, Spain and Chile. We can already conclude that Ryan will be heavily reeled upon by his nation in this tough group. Qualification for the next round is almost impossible for Australia but Ryan will have the chance to test himself against the best strikers in the world. This would mean that his ticket to Brazil could also offer him a ticket to the Premier League.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €2.500.000/£2.200.000
Thomas Meunier, Right Back Club Brugge
When Thomas Meunier played for Virton as an attacker he was desired by most of the top clubs in Belgium. Standard Liège, Club Brugge and RSC Anderlecht were all interested in the young attacker of the Belgian province Luxembourg. Club Brugge had the best offer and signed the talented youngster in 2011. Quite surprising if you know that Thomas Meunier always was a big Anderlecht fan. Nonetheless, he impressed in his first season and played 35 games.
Things changed a bit for Thomas Meunier under the leadership of Spanish coach Juan Carlos Garrido. Due to a lack of quality at the back, Garrido transformed Meunier into a right back. Thomas Meunier first needed some time to adapt, also due to injuries, but after a while things worked out well and Club Brugge had found theirself a modern right back. His new position also earned him a spot in the national squad of Belgium. Coach Marc Wilmots will have to make a choice between Guillaume Gillet, Thomas Meunier and Anthony Vanden Borre for the World Cup in Brazil.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €3.500.000/£3.100.000
Chancel Mbemba, Central Defender RSC Anderlecht
Probably one of the biggest revelations of the Belgian Jupiler Pro League this season. After last season nobody expected that John van den Brom would change his central defending duo. Cheikhou Kouyaté and Bram Nuytinck who had a good season thanks to their consistency. Due to some poor results in the beginning of the season the Dutch coach of Anderlecht tried some new things and brought in Chancel Mbemba. The Congolese defender impressed with his flair, technique, pace and strength and moved from number three to number one in a couple of months.
Last season Anderlecht already wanted to use Chancel Mbemba in the Jupiler Pro League but due to problems with his age they had to wait. The FIFA started an investigation after they discovered that Mbemba had four! birthdays. After suffering a bone scan they could ascertain his year of birth so Anderlecht could start using their talented defender.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €4.000.000/£3.500.000
Bjorn Engels, Central Defender Club Brugge
Another great debut this season came from Bjorn Engels of Club Brugge. After his unlucky debut under Georges Leekens against Bordeaux in the Europa League last season, Bjorn Engels got a new chance this season. Bjorn Engels and Brandon Mechele, both youth players, got a chance to show their potential. The two youngsters made a good impression but it was Bjorn Engels who made the most progress.
We also have to admit that Cub Brugge are struggling with their defenders this season. This summer the club sold Ryan Donk and Oscar Duarte disappeared a bit of the radar due to injuries. Still, Bjorn Engels deserves his spot in the team and looks the be set to become the new leader at the back for Club Brugge. Bjorn Engels also convinced Belgian U21 coach Johan Walem after his great performances with Club Brugge.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €2.500.000/£2.200.000
Alexander Scholz, Central Defender/Left Back KSC Lokeren
KSC Lokeren and their left footed defenders are always a good marriage. After Derrick Tshimanga and Laurens De Bock there’s another talented youngster Lokeren found this season. Alexander Scholz is a Danish footballer who has played for Lokeren since 2013. Ironically, Scholz was brought to Belgium by Arnar Gretarsson who is now the sportive manager of Club Brugge. Some weeks later, Club Brugge bought Laurens De Bock, who plays at the some position as Scholz, from KSC Lokeren for €3.500.000.
Alexander Scholz is a bit a stranger in the football world. He made his debut at the age of 16 but the talented defender stopped playing football to travel around the world. Nobody understood why he spoiled his talent to discover the world but Scholz needed this to find what he really want in life. After a while he missed the ball and knew that football was his future. A beautiful story which will probably end fantastic for the Danish defender.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €1.500.000/£1.300.000
Youri Tielemans, Midfielder RSC Anderlecht
Only 16 years old but already one of the most wanted defending midfielders in Europe. Despite his shifty performances, he’s only sixteen!, we already selected Youri Tielemans. You don’t have to know much about football to see how talented Youri Tielemans is. He impresses with his flair and technique but also showing a lot of fighting spirit for a player of his age. We don’t like to compare because every football player is unique but if you want to have an idea you could compare him a bit with Axel Witsel.
At this moment Youri Tielemans isn’t ready yet to take over the leadership of Anderlecht. Due to Anderlecht’s difficult period it’s not easy for the youngster to improve and get a lot of playing time. It would have been a gift for Tielemans if he could have played along Lucas Biglia this season. Nonetheless, we’re certain that this wonderkid will be one of Europe’s best players in a couple of years. After Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, the Anderlecht fans have a new Prince as they like to call their favourite players.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €7.000.000/£6.200.000
Paul-José Mpoku, Winger Standard Liège
The Congolese born winger moved at a very young age to Belgium. He excelled in Standard’s Youth Academy and moved in 2010 to Tottenham Hotspur. The English Premier League club loaned Mpoku to 3rd division club Leyton Orient where he became a certitude. Despite his good time at Leyton Orient, Totenham didn’t believe that Mpoku would ever make it to their first team. The youngster moved back to Standard Liège in 2011.
Last season Mpoku started to shine again for Standard Liège. Certainly in the Play Offs he was one of the brightest stars in the Jupiler Pro League. This season, things are going even better for the winger. He’s very explosive, has a magnificent shot and dribbles every defender crazy. Guy Luzon gives him the confidence he need what’s very important for Mpoku.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €5.000.000/£4.400.000
Hans Vanaken, Playmaker KSC Lokeren
Things are going fast for Hans Vanaken. Last season, he was still a player of Division Two club Lommel United. This season he’s the magician of Peter Maes’ Lokeren side. The playmaker already knows where to put the ball before he even gets it. He only needs one look to break open a game. He’s also very good in set pieces and also has a nose for (beautiful) goals.
In 2002, Hans Vanaken left Lommel for PSV Eindhoven. The Dutch club believed in the young midfielder and brought him to the Netherlands when he was only 9 years old. After six years in Eindhoven, the midfielder went back to his former club Lommel United. After some good years in the Belgacom League (2nd division) Hans Vanaken left Lommel United to try his luck in the Jupiler Pro League. The fact that he pushed one of Belgian brightest playmakers Dennis Praet to the bench says a lot.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €3.000.000/£2.600.000
Maxime Lestienne, Winger Club Brugge
Maxime Lestienne, born in Kortrijk, played since he was 5 years old for Excelsior Mouscron. He made his debut when he was sixteen and soon became an important player for the Wallonian club. His pace is his most powerful weapon. This combined with a good shot makes him one of those typical wingers we all like to see. In a previous article I compared him a bit with Arjen Robben as they both use the same dribble. Still, their opponents can’t stop them because of the perfection of it.
A lot of clubs are interested in the Belgian winger. According to some sources the chance is big that Lestienne will join a club in the Bundesliga. Wolfsburg is one of the clubs who already enquired but Club Brugge wasn’t willing to sell their biggest prospect yet. This summer is the perfect time for Lestienne to try something new and more challenging. He can’t learn anything more here in Belgium.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €10.000.000/£8.800.000
Aleksandar Mitrovic, Striker RSC Anderlecht
You could say that Mitrovic never got a fair chance here in Belgium because of his transfer price. With his €5.000.000 tag he’s the most expensive incoming transfer in Belgium ever. People expected goals every 45 minutes and preferable some world class goals. Despite scoring a lot in his first months for Anderlecht, the Serbian striker got a lot of criticism. Certainly the Belgian press was harsh on him.
Mitrovic is very strong mentally and focuses only at one thing, scoring goals for Anderlecht. He made a big impression on the international scene with the Serbian national U19 team. Many top clubs were interested in Mitrovic but Anderlecht signed him thanks to their good contacts with his manager Nenad Jestrovic, who’s a former Anderlecht striker. We all expect a lot from Mitrovic but we sometimes forget he’s only 19 years old.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €7.500.000/£6.600.000
Michy Batshuayi, Striker Standard Liège
This is probably the most complete striker we’ve had in Belgium for ages. Michy Batshuayi has it all. Pace, technique, flair, good with his head, dribbling skills but most important of all they youngster became stronger in his head. Batshuayi always played in the youth of Anderlecht but he got sent away because of his bad behaviour. The striker always came too late and did what he wanted to do. Later, he admitted that Anderlecht took the right decision at that time. Standard Liège offered him a second chance and Batshuayi understood that this could be his last chance.
In Belgium we’re all talking about who to play at the World Cup in Brazil, Romelu Lukaku or Christian Benteke. I don’t want to say that Batshuayi should be the one who needs to play but Marc Wilmots should always take him to Brazil. Lukaku and Benteke are both excellent strikers but Batshuayi has something that the former two don’t have, situational awareness. Batshuayi should move this summer to a better competition and show the world how good he is, and believe me, he will.
Market value on www.transfermarket.co.uk: €8.000.000/£7.000.000