Maxime Lestienne: ready for the next step in his career
Maxime Lestienne, the golden winger from Club Brugge, is expected to leave Belgium next year. Club Brugge will probably want to keep him until June and will only accept exuberant offers in January. Michel Preud’homme, who has only just arrived at Club Brugge, already knows how important Lestienne is for this Club Brugge side. “Blauw-zwart” are very dependent on their young winger since last season. Lestienne is one of the favourites together with Thorgan Hazard and Silvio Proto to win the golden boot this year. In Belgium, the Golden Boot is awarded to the footballer who played the best over the calendar year and not over a season.
It all started for Maxime Lestienne at Mouscron, now fusion club Mouscron-Peruwelz. He started his football career in the youth squad and he made his debut for the first team in December 2008. Lestienne started the game on the bench but his coach gave him his first minutes of professional football in the second half; their opponents? Club Brugge. The head coach of Mouscron at that time was ex-Anderlecht player and future Mons coach, Enzo Scifo. The 16-year old became much hyped in Belgium and clubs such as PSV, Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Everton were interested in his huge potential. When Mouscron went bankrupt Lestienne became a free agent and he didn’t had to think long about his decision before signing for Club Brugge. Maxime Lestienne signed for the club of his heart and believed that Club Brugge was the next logical step in his career.
He linked up well with striker Carlos Bacca last season. Bacca was somebody who likes to change positions a lot and Lestienne benefited from that. Lestienne could often show his famous dribble, coming towards the goal from the right side of the pitch,cutting inside and shooting the ball with his left foot in the far corner. Despite defenders beginning to understand what he was doing he continued to score and this reminds me of another great winger, the Dutchman Arjen Robben. Both players stick to their best dribble but execute it so well what makes it impossible to defend.
Marc Wilmots called up Lestienne for the first time for Belgium’s friendly against USA this year. Lestienne didn’t play in the match but it gave him a lot confidence and the chance to understand and see the international set up. Hard work would pay off and a trip to Brazil would be possible if he maintained his excellent form. In September this year Lestienne was selected for the U21-squad of Johan Walem for the important games against Italy and Northern-Ireland. Lestienne invited his girlfriend to his hotel room and didn’t know what was coming. Johan Walem and his assistants knew about the invitation and sent Maxime Lestienne home. Michy Batshuayi and Ibrahima Cissé did the same thing some time before and were also sent home. The Belgian Football Federation decided to ban Lestienne for six months. This probably means that Lestienne can forget to be selected for Brazil.
This season Maxime Lestienne has already scored five times in 12 matches. Last season Lestienne scored 17 goals and helped his team mate Carlos Bacca win the top goalscorer award. 17 goals for a winger is a stunning amount. Repeating that this season would almost definitely make another club come in with an offer. Schalke 04 was already interested in the Belgian attacking midfielder this summer but after they had the possibility of signing Kevin Prince Boateng things changed. To be fair, Schalke and the Bundesliga would have been an excellent choice for him. The Bundesliga suits his style of play even if he would join a lower budget team where counter attacking teams would fit the winger well.
Like I already mentioned Lestienne likes to play with a mobile striker; Carlos Bacca was the perfect foil for Maxime Lestienne but the Colombian moved on this summer to Sevilla and the club replaced their goal getter with Tom De Sutter from Anderlecht. Tom De Sutter is a totally different type of player than Bacca. De Sutter needs wingers with good passing and crossing ability and preferably players playing on their natural side: so a left footed player on the left wing and a right footed player on the right to get to the line and swing those crosses in. Nabil Dirar for example would haven been an excellent duo with De Sutter at Club Brugge. Maxime Lestienne is talented enough to adapt his style to Tom De Sutter but is it worth it?
Maxime Lestienne is eager to win his first title with Club Brugge. The club he loves so much already waits more than 8 years for another title but even he can’t help them, Michel Preud’homme came in and gave the youngster hope in what will probably be his last chance to win the league. Preud’homme loves players who have eye for the goal so Lestienne will be his key player in Club Brugge’s search for a title. So far, he and Mathew Ryan are by far the best players of team. Without them, Club Brugge wouldn’t have 30 points and still in touching distance with league leaders Standard Liége. For Lestienne and Club Brugge it is important Victor Vazquez rediscovers his best form, his creativity and eye for a pass are critical to the teams title hopes and if not Preud’homme will need to go shopping in January for a play maker who can be relied upon. Having a player in the middle of the pitch to pick out passes and run the game will free up Lestienne and Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe to focus on their main jobs.
In the summer Club Brugge refused an offer from Russian club CSKA Moscow for Lestienne. Even if they had accepted the offer the chances were slim that the Belgian would have agreed to a move to Russia. Lestienne has said he wants to play in a better league with better teams, obviously looking at Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez’s struggles before him. CSKA Moscow are believed to have offered between €8.000.000 and €10.000.000 for Lestienne, a pretty large bid that reflects Lestienne’s talents. And despite saying he doesn’t want to go to Russia it may be that CSKA Moscow come back this summer with another bid and never doesn’t always mean never. Because money talks, and never more so in the world of football.