Whether the title is poor, cryptic, clever, whatever…I was looking at the nationalities of the Pro League squads. Before I expanded my search beyond Romanian players, which was the initial point of this post, I have noticed a lot of the players who influence the outcome, whether in a good or bad way, also come from BALKANS (get the title now? Bal and Kan) and thought I’d have a little look further into how many and their affects.
Okay, people who actually took the time to look at my ‘Brits Abroad’ post may say this is similar, which I’d understand, but this is more up to date than listing how many players overtime may have achieved stuff in Belgium.
The reason I expanded my search beyond Romania is because there are 4 players…Just 4. I could save you all time and wrap this up now, but I shall not unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, 3 of the 4 are real quality in the Pro League and ply their trades at the top clubs, and the other is Dorin Rotariu. That is unfair, and in his defence, this is his first year outside of Romania and hasn’t completed 90 minutes yet AND is young.
But the youngster will hope next year will be his breakthrough season and will follow in the footsteps of compatriots Razvan Marin (Standard Liege), Nicolae Stanciu and Alexandru Chipciu (both Anderlecht) who are all key in their own way for their respective clubs. Although Marin is still young, he has proved his worth so far, whereas the Anderlecht duo came together from the same club and have had a season to adjust.
But after the low number of Romanian players currently turning out in Belgium’s top flight, I thought I’d look at 2 more Balkan nations on Croatia and Serbia. Starting with the former, Croatia, much like Romania really came to the football party in the 90s. Even though I am only 27, I still remember Davor Suker turning it on at Euro 96 and World Cup 98 where we all remember Romania dying their hair and topping England’s group at the tournament, but I digress…Croatia have no less than 8 players in Pro League squads across the nation.
Obviously, again, some players are more key than others, for example, Lovre Kalinic who‘s squad number may be 91, but is simply Gent’s No. 1 in goal since signing in December and is their all time record signing at that. At the other end of the spectrum, Mouscron have their own 2 Croatian goalkeepers in Alen Saric-Hodzic and Matej Delac who are in direct competition and also facing the drop unfortunately.
The other Croats are Fran Brodi (Club Brugge), Tomislav Barbaric (Kortrijk), Antonio Milic (Oostende), Mario Ticinovic and Nikola Jambor (both Lokeren) with Milic and Ticinovic spending the longest in Belgium thus far.
Lastly in this post, the nation that completes this trio is Serbia. They represent the league in a big way, with 18…Yes, 18 players coming from the country formerly known as Yugoslavia. Whether this is good or bad, quite similarly to Croatia, Serbia have the biggest cluster of players at Mouscron. I’m not saying that they’re poor players, but with a larger amount of foreign players in this little segment at the team most likely to be in a lower division next season, maybe you can point the finger at that. However, Anderlecht have 2 Serbians and 2 Romanians, so they may not be a factor whatsoever.
The fact you can build a Serbian squad with 18 players, it would be fascinating on how they’d fair in the Pro League, although having no goalkeeper would probably hinder them. To list these I may do this in positional format rather than by team and to be fair, some are new to Belgium and some are old but they are what makes up this crazy league, with other nationalities, of course built on Be-Ne-Rance way with Belgium, Netherlands and France, and then sprinkled within are these bunch of foreign players who add their quality.
The list by the way is:
Vladimir Kovacevic (Kotrijk) Uros Vitas, Aleksandar Bjelica (Mechelen) Bojan Mastic (Genk) Nemanja Miletic (Westerlo) Darko Bjedov, Stefan Mitrovic (Gent) Nikola Gulan (Mouscron) Ivan Obradovic, Uros Spajic (Anderlecht) Milos Kosanovic, Filip Mladenovic (Standard Liege)
Nebosja Pavlovic, Jovan Stojanovic (Kotrijk) Luka Stojanovic (Mouscron) Branislav Ninaj (Lokeren)
Fejsal Mulic and Filip Markovic (Mouscron)
As you can see, I’m guessing creativity isn’t at the top of the Belgian-Serbian list, but more ruthless, defensive stability, with Mechelen, Anderlecht and Standard Liege being the most trusting.
If you actually made it this far, maybe this might be telling, with just 3 selected countries making up over 2 starting lineups in Belgium through depth of players, but this isn’t a criticism, just a show of possibly an untapped market that Belgium have stumbled upon, knowing there is quality, for them at least, out there.