Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj – his early years

Belgian daily newspaper Het Nieuwsblad has today published a fascinating article on Manchester United’s young star Adnan Januzaj, chronicling his hitherto largely unknown pre-Old Trafford development. It is a superbly researched article from Jürgen Geril, who also details the hurdles he had to overcome given the private nature of Januzaj and his close family. You can read the full article in Dutch here. Below, we have selected a few extracts and translated them into English.

Januzaj’s first professional club was RWDM, a logical choice as their then youth coordinator Jean-Paul Pira explains:

“(As well as his father’s links to the club), it was also because Adnan lived 500 metres away from the club. Even as a player for the under-9 team, he went straight into the under-11s because his technique was indescribable. I remember a 22-0 win against La Louvière with Adnan scoring 16 or 17 times. The club didn’t receive a penny for Januzaj (when he went to Anderlecht at the age of 10) but we had a lot of respect for him.”

Adnan Januzaj (far right) - image from

Adnan Januzaj (far right) – image from

Januzaj’s former teammate Eloy Suarez was effusive in his praise for the youngster called up by Marc Wilmots for the World Cup:

“Adnan was a phenomenon. He was quite reserved but I think he even slept with a football. I played just behind him in midfield and he could do it all: stepovers, dummies…He was chosen as the best player at every tournament. His father Abedin (Ed: it says elsewhere in the article that Abedin’s word was law and that if he could not accompany Adnan to a tournament abroad then his son would have to stay at home) was there to see every match and training session.”

Ludo Kums, one of Januzaj’s first coaches at Anderlecht explains the influence of Januzaj’s father:

“Januzaj was not so explosive but he stood out with his footballing intelligence. He could think quicker than the others and was not easily satisfied. His father was the same. I recall an under-13 tournament in Bassevelde. Adnan played superbly in the final but immediately after the game he had to go home with his father. Abedin was very demanding and didn’t think he’d played well enough but that only made him better.”

Adnan Januzaj playing for Anderlecht - image from

Adnan Januzaj playing for Anderlecht – image from

According to Anderlecht defender Michaël Heylen, on loan at Kortrijk,  “Sometimes Adnan would actually have tears in his eyes after a bad game but he learned to hold them in.”

Januzaj’s PE teacher Abdel Jaichi recounts an interesting anecdote, which highlights just how skilful his star pupil was even then:

“He didn’t stand out in class but in PE he would score 9 or 10 (/10). He was also very good at badminton for instance. To keep the pupils busy, I organised a lunchtime tournament between different classes: de Mundialito. Adnan almost always made the final. Once I filmed his legs for an entire quarter so that I could study his tricks afterwards. Sadly, that film is now lost. Adnan, as a sportsman, was also popular with the girls but he was very shy. His family had it tough. Adnan always played in those cheap espadrille shoes.”

Yannick Ferrera, who is now the Sint-Truiden boss, coached Januzaj for Anderlecht’s under-15 side:

“His elegance made me think of Cruijff. Adnan wasn’t a real goalscorer – 10 goals a season at most – but he was more the man who would play the final ball. He had an arsenal of tricks but he always tried to be effective on the pitch.”

The move to Manchester United came as a relief to the Januzaj family according to family friend Rami Islamaj:

“The move bought a sense of peace. At the time, Abedin would still come quite often to watch Kosova Scharbeek and every time he would say that he was being driven round the bend by all the agents who were offering him envelopes stuffed with money for his son. That is why he enlisted Dirk De Vriese as his full-time agent. Abedin only has one son and is therefore very protective of his child. Adnan’s footballing ability has given the family an enormous boost in every way.”

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