Pro League revelations 10, 9, 8: Neeskens Kebano, Dino Arslanagic, Sébastien Dewaest
In the next few weeks BeNeFoot will be bringing you who they believe at the 10 biggest revelations of the Belgian Pro League 2013/14 season. Who has emerged from the darkness and shocked fans and pundits alike with their impressive performances?
We begin the countdown with numbers 10, 9 and 8:
10. Neeskens Kebano (Sporting Charleroi) – By Luke Harvey
Sporting Charleroi signed no less than fifteen players in the last summer transfer window and added six more during the season when the window briefly reopened, all up they essentially signed a whole new team, and then some – a risk for a club looking to establish themselves in Belgium’s top league.
Amongst the summer signings was French attacking midfielder Neeskens Kebano who had just been released from his contract at Paris St. Germain. Unsurprisingly found not needed at the French giants he came to Belgium following a fleeting spell with Ligue 2 side Caen.
As is often the case nowadays, players can find themselves struggling in the major European leagues but are able carve out a home for themselves in Belgium’s top flight. Not that this is a detriment to Belgium’s premier competition but there is certainly a lot less pressure on a player to perform in this environment, and it can often be that mental side of the game that a player needs to overcome before he can find his feet.
And find his feet Kebano did. Named after Dutch star Johan Neeskens, the younger version has also managed to flourish in his role in the middle of the pitch. With a touch less defensive instincts Kebano makes up for it with his tireless running and attacking drive that can cause issues for his opponents.
Making his debut off the bench in Charleroi’s first game of the season, replacing Mohamed Daf – another new signing – Kebano was unable to influence the outcome of the match which ended in a 0-0 draw with OH Leuven. However he must have convinced Felice Mazzu of his worth as he started the following week and then scored the opening goal in a 2-0 win over Cercle Brugge. Neeskens Kebano had truly arrived in the Pro League, but could he sustain it?
The answer is he sustained his form as much as a 22-year-old in his first full league season could be expected to. Much like his club he had some ups and downs and managed to score five league goals in total and one in the cup. Not a massive amount but not a total drought. His brightest spark surely scoring the second goal in a 2-1 victory over Anderlecht, arriving late in the box and then thundering a shot in off the post made a lot of fans sit up and take notice and should Kebano perform next season as well as he did this season, while improving on certain areas of his game and perhaps adding a few more goals to his statistics then Charleroi could be in for a happier looking season.
9. Dino Arslanagic (Standard) By Bjorn De Cock
The central defender of Standard Liège was highly impressive this season, nobody would have thought that Dino Arslanagic would have played more than 15 matches this year least of all Arslanagic himself.
At the club Antonio Kanu and Laurent Ciman were the undisputed central defenders last season but Arslanagic showed this season that they will have to perform at their ver best if they want to keep their spot in the starting eleven. Arslanagic had to wait until November 3 2013 for his first start of the season where he played against KAA Gent, a match which Standard won 1-0.
Following that match Arslanagic got more chances and produced some impressive performances and Laurent Ciman and Arslanagic became the new central duo of Standard Liège. Guy Luzon probably had enough of Kanu, who’s a great defender, but his aggressive playing style makes him a liability. Arslanagic is a young defender who has played for Excelsior Mouscron and Lille OSC before moving to Standard’s youth academy.
Johan Walem, Belgium U21 coach, is a big fan and predicts a bright future for the youngster. Arslangic already played 11 matches for the Belgian U21 side, which is impressive when you factor in how many matches a player usually plays for the U21 side. The defender is now 21 years old and is eager to become Standard’s next central defender for the foreseeable future.
Laurent Ciman and Antonio Kanu are respectively 28 and 30 years old, entering the twilight of their careers. Both players still have some years to play but Arslanagic will give them a hard time next season and is undoubtedly the future heart of the Standard defence. He’s a very intelligent defender with very accurate passing and a precise tackler. He also reads the game very well for a defender which makes it much easier for his defending midfielder(s).
In a central defending duo you always have a leader and someone who blocks every ball with every little piece of his body if necessary. Dino Arslangic is the first one. Winning the title with Standard Liège would be a great achievement for the youngster but even if his side don’t close out the league it will still be a great breakthrough year for him.
In his seventeen starts so far, Standard Liège only lost two matches and conceded just ten goals. He was also responsible for ten clean sheets: some nice statistics for a young defender. Another astonishing stat is that he only takes a yellow card every 382.5 minutes, an impressive feat when you consider his position. A bright future is waiting for this young defender of Bosnian origin. Hopefully for Standard Liège they can still keep him a couple of years, he can still improve here in the Jupiler Pro League and the experience of someone like Laurent Ciman and Jelle Van Damme will only make him a better player.
8. Sébastien Dewaest (Sporting Charleroi) – By Bjorn De Cock
Before this 2013-2014 season I’m sure that a lot of people had never heard from this 23-year old defender. Last season, Sébastien Dewaest was still a second tier player in Belgium where he played for Belgacom League club KSV Roeselare. Sporting Charleroi bought him in April last year and signed him for two years with an option for another two years.
Sébastien Dewaest is one of the many Belgian players who had left Belgium to join Lille OSC. The French club are famous because of their highly rated youth academy where players can often flourisjh, but Sébastien Dewaest couldn’t bring what Lille expected from their youth players and they let him move back to Belgium. Dewaest needed to find a new club and joined KSV Roeselare in 2011.
His first season he only played a couple of games. His second and third season were much better and he impressed with his “over my dead body” mentality. Sporting Charleroi has an eye for good defenders and the choice for Sébastien Dewaest was easy for the “Carolos”.
The central defender didn’t play the first five matches for his new club. Since his debut against KRC Genk, after Steeven Willems got injured, he started every single game in the Jupiler Pro League for his team. His move to Sporting Charleroi seemed to have turned out very well for the Belgian defender and the club will be happy to have a young defender who can either perform for them long term or they will be able to sell on for profit if the time comes.
Sébastien Dewaest is not only a typical hard tackling defender but is also very dangerous on set pieces. He has already scored five goals in his debut season with Charleroi, not bad for a centre back and he likes to make war in the 18-yard box of his opponents. Before you start to think he’s a brutal defender I can tell you that Dewaest only received three yellow cards after having played 30 matches for Sporting Charleroi.
I don’t know yet if the central defender is set for a big career in Belgium or Europe but he certainly has the fighting spirit to do everything to achieve that goal. It would be a nice story for him after Lille OSC didn’t think he was good enough for their side. Philippe Albert, Daniel Van Buyten and Dante from Bayern München showed that Sporting Charleroi is a perfect club to start your career.