It’s finally happened. Sint Truiden have employed a replacement to Ivan Leko! The Spaniard, who is a familiar face in Belgium (mainly to Eupen fans) has signed for De Kanaries for the upcoming season.
Obviously the ins and outs were finalised but why has it taken so long? Known mainly in Spain, he has a job on his hands at the Staaien if I’m honest. With Pieter Gerkens leaving he has a void to fill, along with other areas within the squad!
From being on such a high after an heroic play off tussle, the club seem deflated. Even their social media expert on Twitter seemed to have given up until 3 hours ago! A big job where consolidation maybe the order of the day in the Pro League? Maybe I’m being too pessimistic but right now, not a lot seems to be going on at the club and standing still in football can be as good as going backwards.
For STVV’s case, I hope I’m wrong, but until late July, we won’t find out….definitely good luck to Tintin Marquez and his backroom staff!
So…this week 2 of the biggest clubs in Belgium have settled on who will lead them into next season, and this time around, Standard Liege have appointed Portuguese Ricardo Sa Pinto.
A familiar face to Les Rouches fans as he ended his career at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne 10 years ago, he’ll most likely be a popular acquisition with his connection to the club. Coming from Atromitos in Greece, Sa Pinto may feel he is taking a big step up in terms of stature of club and league.
He has bounced around in management, coaching in 4 countries already! So experience is on his side as well as different styles of play, and maybe potential untapped players he has on his radar? But I’m guessing his main task will be maintaining who he already has in Belfodil and Scholz and keeping them onside for at least another season.
I just think with a good pre season and no European football, Standard could progress if he gets his ideas across, if they’re good of course, and mount a challenge for at least a Europa League place next season. However, Belgium is weird in its own way because you can finish 15th and get a Europa League place, but I feel his targets will be slightly higher than a relegation battle, and the way Liege finished off the play offs, hopefully for them the momentum will carry through into next season.
Lastly, I think José Jeunechamp deserves credit with how he made the team play in the end and restored some pride back into the jersey.
Well…after Michel Preud’homme’s resignation at the end of the play offs, the hunt was immediately on at Club Brugge for a predecessor to the man who was reasonably successful in his spell at the Jan Breydel Stadion. I spouted at one point there were big rumours of Frank de Boer coming into the hot seat and I was only thinking about that very recently, thinking how exciting it would be and probably would bring a whole lot of popularity to the league with a huge name like him.
But with a month to think about the offer, if there ever was one, either two things happened. Either Brugge got edgy and would rather somebody taking over the team sooner rather than later, or, the more likely, de Boer turned them down. Obviously I’m speculating but my question is ‘Why Leko?’
Last night the news broke of Ivan Leko: Club Brugge manager!
He is more than well known in Belgium now, moving to the country in 2005 to Blauw-Zwart and winning his only real trophy at the club in the Beker van Belgie in 2006-07. Moving onto Beerschot and then finally Lokeren, where he won a second Belgian Cup, he went straight into Leuven as manager.
After a brief spell at PAOK in Greece as an assistant, he came back to his second home in Belgium, but this time at Sint Truiden. And this is where I go ‘huh?’ because no matter how well he did in the play offs, and let’s face it, De Kanaries were very, very good. But in his 30 regular season matches, his side were less than average. Winning less than a third of their matches and losing over half, how is that criteria good enough to be hired on?
Players may be better at Brugge, granted, but he knows Belgium. He knows the league and was just not that good. Unless his play off performance was sufficient enough to offer him the job at the runners up of Belgium, with a crack at Champions League qualification, I’m unsure. I hope he performs as well as he did in the play offs for the club and leagues sake, but maybe my pessimist view could be echoed and felt by the fans too?
I feel most sorry for Sint Truiden where, even though I’ve said he wasn’t amazing, he looked as if he may have been building something there which made him deserved of his two year extension there rather than his new two year deal in Brugge.
The season has ended. Well…not officially. But for one club in Belgium it certainly has, and on a major high too. Anderlecht put a run together that saw them crowned this season’s Belgian Pro League champions, and deservedly so, and one man at the helm of this historic and huge club in the capital is a modest and unassuming manager, René Weiler.
The Swiss took over in the summer, leaving Nürnberg and replacing Besnik Hasi who moved to Legia Warsaw. With Anderlecht not winning the league for a short time, it would probably be considered a drought for a club this successful in recent years, so a plan would have been needed by somebody who spent his entire football career playing in Switzerland. Looking at the summer transfers in and out, some inspired signings were brought in, like Spajic, Hanni and Teodorczyk who not only proved a huge success, but also sured up the spine of the team. He also appointed Tielemans as a club captain as well as Sofiane Hanni which was a good move in itself.
After a reasonable start, remaining unbeaten until late September, when a huge upset where relegated Westerlo beat Les Mauves at the Constant Vanden Stock, his plans were going along nicely, and for his sake, very well until the end of the season. Looking at his results and the club, he looked to have made the team more assured, knowing how good Anderlecht were in this division and showing how he trusted his players as squad rotation did come into play. He also proved how much faith he had in his players as he took that into the Europa League and heroically only lost to Manchester United through an extra time winning for the English side.
Averaging just over 2 goals per game in the regular season and the play offs (scoring 82 goals), that’s a fantastic goal return, knowing that his players had the capability to score anywhere if needed. They also conceded just under a goal a game, which isn’t too bad conceding 36 goals all season. One thing is for sure, you were bound for entertainment watching this season’s champions in action, week in, week out.
This was groundbreaking for Weiler too. This was his first title as a player or manager. To win your first trophy is huge, no matter what it is, and to do it at a club which may have felt that they needed new, fresh ideas and to see such a positive turnaround so quickly, not only repaid the faith in the board, but proved them right too.
Winning only breeds winning and I’m sure this club will continue to remain hungry for progression. This also puts the manager into good stead as he can now know what it takes to see out a title win. The only problem for the club is that keeping hold of their players will always be an issue, and if there’s continuous glory, holding onto the gaffer will always be a problem too incase he moves to France, or a bigger Bundesliga side, or even go back home but with Basel this time?
I don’t intend to turn a huge positive into a negative, but the reality is that this league discovers and churns out such names in world football, whether that be on the pitch or on the bench. This won’t happen soon of course, and hopefully for Anderlecht’s sake, he may build something big in Brussels, but in the back of every supporter, journalist and players head, they know that success sees progression, and that means new explorations for everyone involved, unless you just love Belgium or the club you play for.