The rebirth of Anthony Vanden Borre at international level?

Belgian national coach Marc Wilmots announced his selection for the friendly game against Ivory Coast yesterday, and while the familiar names were more or less all present, one pick certainly stood out –  Anthony Vanden Borre, the wonder kid who was destined to be one of Belgian’s best players several years ago

A lack of discipline effectively destroyed his young career, while his friend Vincent Kompany made it to the top in Europe. Anthony Vanden Borre played his first game at the highest level for Anderlecht at the age of  16. He started against Sporting Charleroi, next to Vincent Kompany, a dream duo for every Anderlecht fan who could only get better and better. The fledgling right-back took every chance that came his way in the early days and showed his potential becoming well known in Europe (and not just because of his legendary status as a wonderkid on Championship Manager). Vanden Borre also impressed in the Champions League games, with plenty of European clubs showing their interest in the talented player of Anderlecht. He also became also the second youngest player (16 years old) for the Belgian national team.

After a few seasons, Anthony Vanden Borre entered into a difficult period. Under the lead of coach Franky Vercauteren the youngster lost his place in the team and started to lose faith in himself. Vercauteren said that Vanden Borre needed to work harder if he wanted to get back in the team. In 2007, Anderlecht sold Vanden Borre to Fiorentina, with the player wanting to leave his comfort zone in an attempt to find his form. Anderlecht received around €4,000,000 for the defender.

His story at Fiorentina wasn’t a long one. Vanden Borre only managed to play two games for the Italian club, before in 2008, Genoa bought 50% of his transfer rights. A couple of months later they bought him outright after loaning him first. Under coach Gian Piero Gasperini, Vanden Borre gained confidence again and gathered a lot of playing time. Genoa ended up fifth in Serie A and qualified for the Europa League.

The following season Genoa bought some new players in the summer and Vanden Borre was linked to several clubs. Portsmouth showed the most interest and signed the Belgian international on a one year loan term. Portsmouth had a very difficult season struggling with administration and were even relegated at the end of the season. Players such as Kevin-Prince Boateng, David James, Niko Kranjcar and many other internationals struggled, and Vanden Borre couldn’t keep up the pace neither. Another bad ending story for the young Belgian defender.

Vanden Borre returned to Genoa, only to find he was surplus to requirements. The defender and his manager struggled to find suitors while Genoa made business even more difficult and said that he still had a contract with them. Eventually, Racing Genk handed him the best offer and Vanden Borre signed for the Belgian club. Due to the ongoing contract dispute with Genoa, Vanden Borre could only start playing for Racing Genk in January 2011. Most people were a bit surprised that Vanden Borre had chosen for Racing Genk as Franky Vercauteren was the coach at that time. Later, Vanden Borre said that it wasn’t Vercauteren’s fault that he didn’t improve anymore at Anderlecht but his own.

At Racing Genk we would see fleeting moments of the best Anthony Vanden Borre back. Vercauteren used him as a midfielder and certainly in Play Off 1 he played an important role and helped, together with Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois, Racing Genk win the title. The next season, Anthony Vanden Borre was one of the only players from Genk to come out of the Champions League campaign with any credit. But under the leadership of Mario Been he started to think again he already made it. The Dutch coach had to punish him from time to time for disciplinary reasons. Vanden Borre fell into old habits. Again…

Racing Genk weren’t interested anymore in extending Vanden Borre’s contract. The defender, still only 25 years old, was once again without a club in 2012. Many thought that this would be the end for him. However, his first club Anderlecht allowed Vanden Borre to train with them and play with the reserves. After a few months of ups and down, much like Vanden Borre’s career itself, he worked his way up to the first team. Anderlecht wisely chose to offer him a contract based on performances.

This season, Anthony Vanden Borre, together with Chancel Mbemba, is one of the few Anderlecht players who is performing at a reasonably high level. Current Anderlecht coach John van den Brom uses him as a right back. There was a bit of luck about his return in his favoured position, due to an injury of captain Guillaume Gillet who lost his right back position at Anderlecht and at the national team.

Still, with Anthony Vanden Borre you never know what you’re going to get. He could be a gift, even for this talented national team, for the Belgian squad in Brazil. He still has the possibility to become one of the best players at his position but he will have to work for it every single week. The moment the press and analysts will praise him it will be difficult for Vanden Borre to keep his head cool. He has a tendency to let himself believe his own hype. Thomas Meunier is waiting in the wings to take in his place should things go the wrong way again for Vanden Borre. But if Wilmots gets the Vanden Borre who performed so well against Spain all those years ago, it could be a justified recall.

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