With the new season coming up and action in the transfer window, the interest in Belgian footballers will be increased. It is not unknown that the English leagues welcome more and more footballers from across the Channel, and it is also a fact that they can blow people’s minds.
Most of us will agree that there was a lot of red, yellow and black in last season’s Premier League campaign, which finished with a total of 68 Belgian goals. But how did it all begin?
Footballers like Moussa Dembélé, Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini and Simon Mignolet already proved themselves, but there are also a couple of new names who gained the interest of big clubs by having played an amazing season.
Think about Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku, who was on loan at West Bromwich Albion. He put an end to his season by scoring a hattrick in the 5-5 draw against Manchester United. Lukaku scored a total of 17 goals through the 2012-2013 season, which made the Belgium international finish sixth on the Premier League Top Scorers List. Only Christian Benteke, Aston Villa’s new boy who is also the first Belgian ever to score a hattrick in the Premier League, did better. He finished fourth with 19 goals. Another Belgian footballer who made it in the newspapers is Eden Hazard, who left Lille for Chelsea last summer. Eden is known in England for his assists, he finished second on the list with the most assists.
It is a tradition to select the Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Team of the Year awards at the end of a season. And with this, another selection of Belgian names was nominated. We think of Jan Vertonghen and Eden Hazard, who are in the Team of the Year. Hazard also was nominated for the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards. This last award also was an option for Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke.
Chelsea probably is the Premier League club with the most Belgians in their selection. Last summer the Blues welcomed Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Thorgan Hazard and the Musonda brothers. Abramovic even placed a £20 milion bid on Everton’s Marouane Fellaini. It will be the ninth Belgian footballer to join the London club if the Evertonian says yes. Another place in England which is almost filled with Belgian colours, is the ‘blue side’ of Liverpool. The Toffies are proud with Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas and it looks like FC Twente’s Nacer Chadli is on their wishlist. Everton also placed a bid on Club Brugge striker Vadis Odjidja, but the club refused to sell their star. It is expected that Everton will place another bid.
Further north in England, Simon Mignolet gained his status as Sunderland’s goalkeeper. He recently moved and is the first Belgian footballer to join Liverpool FC with this transfer.
Another Belgian footballer who is on the wishlist of big clubs is Aston Villa goalgetter Christian Benteke. A transfer this summer is not planned.
How did this Belgian invasion start?
Turn back the time. The Premier League has Vincent Kompany at Manchester City and there is no other sign of a real Belgian talent. The national team is nothing more than a selection of footballers with a Belgian identity, collected from moslty Belgian teams and a few clubs in Europe. Nobody knows about us, we are just a country at the bottom of the FIFA ranking with a legendary history.
Belgium has produced legends in the past (think of Philippe Albert, Jean-Marie Pfaff, Eric Gerets, Vincenzo Scifo, Marc Wilmots, Rik Coppens and Michel Preud’homme) and the team finished far in World Cups, European Cups and Olympics. The most famous campaign of this national team must be the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. People are still talking about this campaign as it was just a few days ago, the match against Soviet Union obviously is a hot topic to talk about in a pub.
We jump to 2002. The year when everything goes wrong for Belgium. They have a strong team, but could not succeed to qualify for a World Cup or a European Cup. Belgian football fans lose interest in the team and coaches get sacked. Six years later, the belief in a “golden generation” came back as the Belgium U21 qualified for the 2008 Olympics and finished fourth. It still is waiting for Belgium to qualify for a big event after 2008 as they did not succeed to go to South Africa in 2010 and Poland and Ukraine in 2012.
We are 2013 and the qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup are on their way. The Belgian Red Devils gained interest by the fans after some extremely strong performances and actions where the team challenges the fans to do something and the teams performs a compensation if the fans succeed. These challenges, known as ‘Duivelsuitdagingen’ (in Dutch), are very famous among Belgians. A ‘Red Madness’ has captured the country. The Belgian Red Devils became a trademark and the first fandays are organized.
The national team grew stronger and became famous. Belgium does not only get support from their own country, but even other natonalities show interest in the Devils.
England discovered the skills and talent in this little country and a wide interest from several Premier League clubs was unstoppable. A hunt for Belgian signatures was opened and big prices were given, just to make sure one of the Red Devils joined an English club.
It is the dream of almost every footballer to shine in England, but only the finest footballers make it this far.
Belgium was nothing more than a small country being famous for its fries, waffles, chocolate and beer…until coach Marc Wilmots and his team began a splendid series of victories!