Posted in Transfers

The Windows Slams Shut

As we draw a line under yet another transfer window, I have one question to ask…hasn’t this year gone quick?!? February already. Outrageous! But seriously, who has done the best business? There are some clubs who felt it’d be best to coach those they already have, there were those who felt they needed strengthening and those who felt maybe adding one or two could help in the long run. Nothing major.

The most high profile in my opinion included Anderlecht. In comes Ryota Morioka, Kenny Saief, Lazar Markovic and almost Aleksandar Mitrovic, but that didn’t happen in the end. And going out was the captain Sofiane Hanni. To be fair, the business Les Mauves have done has been decent. There were rumours of others coming in amongst these, but the incoming quality is for all to see.

Zulte Waregem also did well, bringing in Harbaoui, Marcq and Bongonda which has seemed to make an impact with how there has been an upturn in results. I know Bongonda hasn’t featured yet, but the confidence is there and is slowly coming back into the players with no proper outgoings too which is a bonus.

Mechelen and Antwerp always seemed busiest with players being announced regularly according to Twitter. Siani, De Laet and Pitroipa caught my eye for the Great Old, with Sylla, Tainmont and the returning Verdier doing likewise for Mechelen. The problem for Mechelen however is that their current manager didn’t sign a single one of those names. What if he doesn’t fancy any of them? It’s tough sacking a manager, but doing it nearer the end of the window? I don’t get it.

Sint-Truiden and Oostende were pretty quiet on the transfer front, especially De Kustboys. With the ownership of the club up in the air, why would Coucke spend a penny on a club he’ll be leaving in a months time? He’s sorted, along with Anderlecht, but Oostende are there and needed reinforcements if I’m honest. Smart from STVV though where they brought in a couple of faces, namely Chuba Akpom, but they’ll want to work with what they’ve got as the players have done so well and are still hungry and determined to finish the season off in style.

Mouscron were reasonably quiet with three signings, two of them on a free, as well as Charleroi, losing Lukebakio to Watford, but gaining Grange where a lot of hype has revolved around him, despite poor results recently. There’s a cluster of clubs who have signed and lost either two or three players, which you’d understand as you obviously can’t overhaul your squad in January. It’s more a case of fresh ideas instead of a fresh start.

I’ll end on Club Brugge who were annihilated by Standard last night and maybe could’ve done with this defeat on Tuesday. Without being too unkind, why is Gabulov still getting picked ahead of Vermeer. Both January signings. Some have made an impact already for Blauw-Zwart, but this 4-1 defeat is damning in all honesty. Standard looked to have moved on from Scholz already with a sparkling display, especially from Renaud Emond grabbing a hat trick, proving the cup is a fantastic outlet for Les Rouches as they aim for silverware this March!

Posted in Transfers

Has the Loyalty Gone?

This is mainly a transfer blog post this time, but I feel a bit fed up. Mainly because two players who have come in this summer, and in fairness they did join ‘feeder clubs’, but who the fuck were Bandé and Morioka until now? Suddenly Ajax and Anderlecht come calling and it’s not that they’ve gone, I’ve done that in my ‘footballing career’ when I joined a professional club, but I waited and I still love the original semi pro club.

Mechelen and Beveren must feel like shit. They’ve signed players who are desperate to leave. One is on their way and one has basically gone mentally. It’s a shame these teams can’t squeeze every last drop out of them whilst under contract, but player power has never been so big until now, and that goes for all over the world, not just Belgium. Of course this window has thrown up plenty of deals, and it isn’t over yet, but transfer deadline day may be more dead than a cemetery.

Scholz has gone to Club Brugge (I think) with Refaelov going the other way? Hanni has unfortunately left for Spartak Moscow and rumours were that Teodorczyk is going Nantes. Anderlecht have already lost Stanciu to Sparta Prague and Dendoncker feels he has overstayed his welcome. Plenty want to leave Belgium and others want to stay if it’s at Club Brugge or Anderlecht. Well, I say Anderlecht even though I just named three players on their way.

Mechelen have been busy in that they’ve signed a squad by the looks of it. However, to then let a new manager look after them? Do they suit Van Wijk’s style? So far…no! Many say buying in January isn’t great. No deals, all that bollocks. But you can get players. Players who are out of favour and may be a short term fix. Some permanently and could prove pivotal long term. I’m just wondering will Standard, Gent, STVV, etc sign more or any players? Rumours in England is Chuba Akpom to STVV. Better for the player than the club if I’m honest.

I’m bouncing around this post thinking there’s 16 clubs all wanting the best deal they can get, can afford and which player could be the one who wins them matches, keeps them up, saves them points? Antwerp have been busy, as have Mechelen which I’ve mentioned, but that’s it off the top of my head. Others have added in terms of squad (Club Brugge) and others have been quiet. Genk have signed Seck but maybe some teams feel the odd tweak and not a lot of shuffling could upset the apple cart.

Sorry, I had this great post lined up in my head and was writing it whilst at work in my brain, but it’s all forgotten. I think the opening paragraph set me off. I was messaging a Beveren fan about Morioka recently and they said with a heavy heart, the Japanese has to go, but the money will help with the running of the club. Four million euros?!? Alexis Sanchez could earn that in two months (allegedly) and Beveren are scraping 2 cents to rub together. There’s no clubmen anymore, unless you support that club I guess. Money can and may well ruin football, even in Belgium. Not to carry this on, the BeNe League could prove that. But losing every single top player. It’s like I have to learn a new squad every 12 months!

I hope the 2 who fuelled this post do have great careers, and I hope those who fill their boots perform even better. Full of talents and underrated quality, I love Belgian football so much, it pains me when too players leave as much as those who leave the club I support. Pathetic but true…

Posted in Transfers

The Japanese Influence

I wrote a thread for a Twitter page recently regarding this topic. Walfoot then wrote something similar to my thread seven hours later but no biggy… Japan is slowly making its way over to the Pro League right now. Over the past 12 months, their influence has actually been nothing but positive. Not that there’d be a negative, although time will tell for Sint-Truiden, but on the pitch, the players have excelled and proven to be some of the best that ply their trade in Belgium.

It’s almost exactly a year since Yuya Kubo graced the Pro League pitches and has been the scourge of many a club in his wake. Skilful, clinical, one of the best players in the division. He hit the ground running and I couldn’t get enough of him. I did wonder how long it’d be before he moved on to say France or Germany. Either scoring or assisting a goal every 3 matches this season, his rate has slowed down, but he did set such high standards to begin with, and almost all these numbers came once Yves Vanderhaeghe came into the club this season.

Six months later, Ryota Morioka came across from Poland and I worried for him, only because of how good his compatriot was. Instead, Morioka has shown him up in some aspects, scoring or assisting a goal in 75% of the matches he has played in this season in all competitions. Obviously it’s all down to the individual.

I mentioned Vanderhaeghe previously, and maybe Phillipe Clement aided the Japanese in the same way? Although before I continue, Vanhaezebrouck must’ve been great for Kubo too. Unfortunately I predict Morioka won’t be at Beveren for long though. Gent are a club fighting for the title whereas Beveren are a good club, but not in the top tier of Belgian clubs. Progression does look likely, but what a joy it is to have him.

And now does the expectations rise on the fresh blood coming in this transfer window? Yuta Toyokawa went straight to Eupen from Leeds on loan and the striker will definitely need to do the same as the others in this post. Eupen, just 2 points adrift at the bottom, will need to utilise all their players in a way to survive. It’d be a huge achievement and the player could become an unlikely hero between now and mid March. Along with Yuta, STVV have signed Takehiro Tomiyasu to go with their Japanese owners! Looking at some numbers, he seemed undroppable for Avispa when he was there. At the other end of the table to Toyokawa, he’ll help Sint-Truiden maintain their top 6 position in the league, playing in all sorts of defensive roles.

Belgium has always been a stepping stone League, where players move on to bigger things eventually, or do extremely well where they are now. Are the days of buying Japanese, Chinese, Korean and so on players still a marketing tool? Obviously these players can do well right now, but commercially are they an asset? In a league like the Pro League, when countries aren’t fighting for TV deals, maybe they still are? Because these players are so great, surely they’re simply bought for their talents and aren’t another Junichi Inamoto, Ryo Miyaichi or Park Chu-Young, speaking from my club’s experience. may have had something behind the Tomiyasu deal because of the link? Or maybe it’s fantastic scouting? Like I’ve said, time will tell, and for the players sake, I hope everything goes well!

Posted in Transfers

Transfers…Transfers Everywhere

Today is January 5th 2018. A window which has been open for five days, I’m sorry, the french doors, front door, garage door, even car windows seem to be open in Belgium as movement between employer and employee has begun, whether it be permanent or temporary. It’s great because who doesn’t love a transfer? Well… depends on which club you support.

I’ve written about Gent today so I’ll continue this trend. De Buffalos have and will lose Marcq, Milicevic and Saief this winter to teams in the league, real competition around them and Metz. Fans, as well as myself, were pleading with Stefan Mitrovic to stay and not join Milicevic in France, but at Saint Etienne. Anders Christiansen has come in which looks a good signing. Possibly another quality Dane joining the league. But I think Vanderhaeghe needs to sign some more quality and keep Mitrovic as best he can to see out this season and try and plan for next term, even without certain players.

Speaking of Damien Marcq, he has gone to Zulte Waregem who seem to be doing the opposite to Gent. Essevee have signed Harbaoui and, of course, Marcq and could be resigning Théo Bongonda from Celta Vigo. Francky Dury knows it’s all or nothing now for the top 6, which I still feel is doable, so experience and quality is needed. The other boost of Olayinka getting banned for 2 matches instead of 4 is also handy.

A team who could take note are Standard Liège who I’ve noticed have been linked with some names like John Bostock and Carlos Auzqui, who I’ve heard on good authority that he isn’t the best, and yet nothing’s happened. Other rumours include an outgoing of Edmilson Junior to Anderlecht, which could cause riots. Standard need something and preferably soon. Rumours of Sa Pinto getting tinned hang around like the bad smell he has created and something positive need to happen to Les Rouches.

A spluttering of others deals, like Club Brugge signing a new 34 year old goalkeeper to replace their old 34 year old goalkeeper. Also, the signing of Krepin Diatta from Norway. An 18 year old who I read was up for best African talent. Also Eupen look to be losing Verdier to China (I think) which I’m sure many fans won’t be too sad to see. Clement Tainmont has joined Mechelen who’ll need all the help they can get to stay up and that’s mainly it. Rumours floating around regularly is what you expect, but deals going through seem to be happening too.

I’ll finish by saying if Saief and Edmilson come into Anderlecht, it’s clever as they’re signing good players from those around them. If they can learn from Celtic, Bayern, PSG, any Dutch Champions and what Manchester United used to do, signing the better players from the league you’re in does help out with domestic success sooner rather than later. Beyond this, we all hope to see more for the other 26 days this month!

Posted in Transfers

So What’s Anderlecht’s Choices?

This may be a pointless blog. Fans of Anderlecht, Belgian football fans, etc, etc will know a whole lot more than me on this topic. That’s not difficult mind but, reading more and more each day about this player and that player leaving, I wonder what the options are at the Vanden Stock?

The news that’s been on repeat mode for a while is Robert Beric going back to Saint Etienne. Not surprised he is on his way out. Wasn’t a Vanhaezebrouck signing and therefore wasn’t given loads of chances. You have another loanee in the superb Henry Onyekuru who is now of course injured. That’s potentially 10 goals and 5 assists lost between now and May out of the side.

Then we go to the fit strikers at the club. I don’t know what has happened to Lukasz Teodorczyk this season. An outstanding season on loan at the club last term, the joint top goal scorer from last year has fallen massively and bumped. He can’t get a start let alone a goal. And then there’s Hamdi Harbaoui who is a proven goal scorer in Belgium yet he just doesn’t seem wanted by Anderlecht at all. Not wanted by Vanhaezebrouck with a potential loan move to Zulte Waregem on the cards and obviously went away on loan last season too! I don’t get the dislike for the Tunisian?

If we go nearer the defence, without missing Stanciu out and a possible move to Sparta Prague, which would be great for him and the Czech side because his won the league in Belgium and Romania, it can definitely be done in the Czech Republic. It’ll also mean regular football too. And now. Ivan Obradovic is up for a possible move too, where he has turned down a move back to Belgrade. I like him. Deschacht is a club legend because of his service, but he is getting on a bit and will need replacing. And then rumours of Uros Spajic going too? I don’t know ayyy.

It seems to be a total overhaul of the playing staff if I believe everything I read. Some players, yeah, I understand. But unless Hein Vanhaezebrouck has his sights set on the academy and he’s own players. It’s understandable. He has a project in mind and Marc Coucke maybe seeing the same thing. I just want to know what’s going on? I don’t have sleepless nights but this is why a transfer window can mess with a fans head!

Posted in Transfers

Should We Be Worried?

Bit over the top from me there. I’ve been so tired this week that I’ve not written a post on here since Monday. The point of my title is that we all know the Pro League is a selling league because of the individual quality within it. But when players are signed by leagues of similar stature it could be a worry.

With Hassane Bandé moving to Ajax they’re stock piling youngsters in case what has happened to Mechelen happens to them. Even though there are scouts everywhere (this is regarding Ajax) because they never got into Europe their top youngsters were maybe safe for a season without the test of European football, and only had to deal with the Eredivisie. With that quick business done too, why didn’t Anderlecht or Club Brugge move quicker?

Bandé is literally playing under their noses and if they did bid, then fair enough. If they’re waiting for some reason then another quality youngster will be leaving the league. We’re lucky Onyekuru has been loaned back for a season, although getting a game at Everton seems unlikely next season under Alladyce.

But unlike last season, there are youngsters playing regularly in the Pro League. I did an u21 team last season and honestly scraped the barrel, with the 2 best players leaving the league. This season there’s not only more, but more quality too. You have Wesley, Dion Cools and Dennis Bonaventure at Club Brugge alone. Elsewhere you have Siebe Schrijvers, Samuel Kalu, Aaron Leya Iseka and others who may be snapped up too!

Like I’ve said, you have to accept it, which many do, but for me I thought Bandé would have at least another season at Mechelen. I know bigger clubs don’t wait but he is so raw, I thought they’d double check instead of developing the player at their club. I guess my main concern is that he has gone Holland. Not France, or Spain, or Germany or even England. It is a sideways step when regarding the league.

If you go by how Holland compared to Belgium in Europe, then Belgium won. Zulte Waregem defeating Vitesse proved that. If you did Anderlecht vs Feyenoord in the Champions League, I believe Les Mauves would’ve come out on top. Club Brugge vs Ajax or PSV it’d be tougher to call. Obviously Bandé is at Mechelen who aren’t even mentioned here, and I’d rather play for Ajax instead of say…Stuttgart or Montpellier. But I guess he feels this is for his natural progression.

I know this is mainly focusing on one player and one transfer, but is this a sign of things to come in January! Hopefully not, but the cliche is that nothing surprises you in football anymore.

Posted in Transfers

Transfer Deadline Day Farce

It’s not really a farce. Well, maybe. This whole show business that we call football. Focussed on money it makes me sick. Neymar may have ruined football in terms of inflated transfer fees, although I have a counter argument which I heard, if I’m honest, but football transfers and this build up, speculation and unveiling of players is embarrassing.

The thing is, in Belgium players were being signed too quickly, if that makes sense. It was as if a river broke its bank, to then a stream drying up. The worry for me and the league are players moving abroad. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I’m selfish. I want the best to stay and better to come in. I began the summer doing a transfer weekly roundup. Going to my opening paragraph, I got bored of it. There is always excitement if your team signs someone, but I have no allegiances to any of these clubs, but for the league I’m more happy than excited.

Big players in the league have unfortunately left and I’m gutted. But forget that. The action on the pitch has destroyed anything written by bloggers, journalists or football experts. When 5 of the bottom 6 should possibly be in the top 6, you know you’re in for a ride this season. I guess the only criticism of this league is the total lack of clubs in European competition. Starting with 5, we now have…2. The reason that’s a negative is because people would rather play in Cyprus than in Belgium. 

But forgetting going abroad for maybe playing in other competitions, I would never begrudge players, and this includes Belgium, leaving for financial gain. Silvio Proto has joined Olympiakos with Bjorn Engels. They should win another league after winning everything in Belgium already. So it’s personal glory, but maybe better wages. Every player does have themselves to look after, and that includes personally. If they’re offering up better money, take it! 

But I’ll end on whet I also started with. Damien Comolli said recently that he feels that massive transfer fees will be a thing of the past. Players will sign smaller deals so they can move after 2-3 seasons. Just think…Virgil van Dijk and Coutinho are still at their clubs because they signed huge deals and clubs can afford to keep them, playing or not. It’s interesting but I think fair. He does have a point…

Posted in Pro League in Europe, Transfers, Uncategorized

Random Ramblings

This blog post is a post where, like some I have done before, I spill my thoughts onto a screen via my thumb as I’m having to use my phone. I am @currently in Luxembourg, mainly because flights were cheap, along with accommodation, and I have worked a lot in 2017.

It’s tough for me and whoever may read this because it’s a reality check in some ways. I managed to go to the stadia of the 2 biggest clubs in Luxembourg City. Their capacities aren’t big and in all honesty, they resemble a non league ground in England. How they’d be able to play in UEFA competition is beyond me, and furthermore, how did Glasgow Rangers get knocked out by Niedercorn (if that’s correct).

I then think about the Pro League. A league where people in England scoff at the players, league and clubs. Where the other night on what is the biggest sports radio station in the world, they said they’d keep us abreast of all goals as they go in across Europe. Belgium apparently isn’t in Europe because Oostende vs Antwerp wasn’t mentioned at all. As I’ve said many times, I find Belgian football entertaining, fascinating, and with most clubs, approachable in that you can contact the clubs and ‘converse’ I guess.

But every club have their problems and expectations. The club I actually support is in total disarray on and off the pitch. The players want to leave, the manager won’t and the fans basically want everyone to go! If you know who I’m on about you will say that I don’t know how lucky I am. But because if all this I have become disillusioned. The negativity is beginning to wear me down and I no longer have the affinity with my club anymore.

I have Belgian Football as my release. I see that Standard Liege are almost capitulating in some ways. I see a big name in Jordi Clasie has come across from Southampton. But as much as I try to keep up to date, I tend to give my opinion of the facts or rumours that I’ve read, whether it’s immediate or later. I have played and loved football since I was 4 years old and 23 years later, that relationship is hanging by a thread because of who I support and the money thrown about. 

In England, money from fans no longer pay wages. When you see £30-£40-£50 million + deals made between July and September and then in January, you are no longer surprised. When you see insurmountable wages thrown about and players say THAT’S NOT ENOUGH! You almost need to question the parents. 

I don’t know. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, the Lokeren press officer said don’t compare us to England. But we invented football and have over 100 professional football clubs. To not make a comparison with what I know…Well…I have nothing to go by then. When I saw 2 managers sacked after 2 matches in Belgium I actually got worried. It gave me something to write, but I was hoping Belgium was better than that.

It is. It gives you Mouscron, Kortrijk, Antwerp and Sint Truiden looking down at Oostende, Anderlecht, Gent and Standard Liege and it shows that things can be different if team ethic and hard work comes into play. I hope this continues, at least til Christmas because it gives clubs hope that togetherness is more important than individualism. Especially in football…

Posted in Transfers

The Belgian Connection

I have been thinking for a while about writing this post. Belgian football is on the way up. At the same time, it may level itself out with the losses of Tielemans and Onyekuru from the league. If players like Henrik Dalsgaard are willing to swap top flight Belgian football with Europa League this coming season for an average Championship club in England, then there’s certainly a worry (and I’m not going to assume it’s money that lured him away). 

But titling this as a Belgian Connection wasn’t just a play on the French variety, but also, why can’t Belgian clubs either create or continue this parent/feeder club association with clubs around Europe, and the world, like they used to? I always remember the links between Beveren and Arsenal, where Arsenal youngsters would gain much needed first team experience in adult football, with Beveren also getting players eager to impress and help the side too and Arsenal would capitalise with signings such as Emmanuel Eboue, or taking Yaya Toure on trial or Marco Ne. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

The other link I also seem to remember is Manchester United getting the most out of Antwerp as well with the same premise that Arsenal had. And this segway ties in well with my next part. Antwerp have created a three season link with FC Porto of, well, Portugal… obviously. And Antwerp could gain real quality players from the Dragões, with probably the better players from the Great Old going in the other direction, with probably a cut price option. 

I under not every club will be up for this. Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Gent and others will probably feel they should rather be a parent club rather than a feeder, and that’s fine. If they haven’t got this situation already, although it’s likely that they would have with some clubs, why not broaden your search for players at differ clubs and maybe take advantage of players in Germany, Holland, second tier Spanish clubs or something along those lines. Chelsea use this extremely well with their links to Vitesse Arnhem which has mainly benefitted the Dutch outfit rather than the English champions, seeing as Chelsea don’t often use young players unless they’ve been bought for £20 million. 

Eupen have a great connection with the Aspire Academy. With Onyekuru, Diagne, and of course, many others, and this season there have been another influx of youth players arriving at the Kehrweg Stadion doorstep. If they’re deemed good enough they play, if not they’re sold, released or if they’re very good, they’re sold for big profit. Whether the actual club see much of that is another matter, but with Eupen rise and then consolidation in the Pro League, something must be working down there. And I bring this up because this is an example of success through an affiliation.

Courtesy of Getty Images

On the negative side, what’s the point of having an academy if you can simply take players from a different club who are of the same age as the players in your youth team? I did an under 21 team of the season last year and scraping the bottom of the barrel is an understatement. The criteria is that they had to feature in 10 or more league matches and Eupen (unsurprisingly) could’ve filled the team on their own. There really wasn’t many at all unless they were strikers, which isn’t a risk to take compared to a goalkeeper or defender. 

I also suggested a Belgian Carabao Cup altern too to blood youngsters rather than play average older players. To reiterate, I don’t !ran this player is average! But Kums at an older age has replaced a 19 year old Tielemans. Anderlecht have to do what’s best for them, but to change a fantastic youngster for a good older player, René Weiler may have stopped the progress of another youngster coming though?

That last paragraph is another post for another day, but the point of this was to see if affiliation between clubs around Europe and the world could still be worthwhile if done correctly!

Posted in Transfers

Am I Wrong About Ivan Leko?

A few weeks ago, Club Brugge hired the Croatian as the replacement for Michel Preud’homme in the form of Ivan Leko. I wouldn’t say I was scathing, but I did, like most, have an opinion about the former Sint Truiden manager taking over at the Jan Breydel Stadion. Now we’re into July, the transfer window is officially open (as of yesterday) and some of the signings have been pretty decent, before and after his tenure began.

Elton Acolatse was onboard before his acquisition and since then, he has steadily been building by signing some decent players, like Anderlecht, from the teams around him. With Acolatse, you now have Guillaume Hubert, Jordi Vanlerberghe and now Jeremy Perbet after the club announced his signing from Gent yesterday, and most memorably, the match winner against Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League.

Courtesy of Getty Images

The only problem I guess is his embarrassment of riches up front. With the aforementioned Acolatse and Perbet, you also have, and this is a fair list, Wesley, Vossen, Rafaelov, Izquierdo, Limbombe, Strandberg and Diaby! To keep all those happy, either loan deals will have to happen, or, they’ll have to know that a pairing is for Europe, one for league matches and others for cup games. I mean, depending on the formation, will Perbet, Izquierdo, Rafaelov, Wesley and Jelle Vossen settle for the bench?

Along with that, with Hubert signing, will Ludovic Butelle or Ethan Horvath settle for the bench, when the former was holding the clean sheet title in the regular league, and the young American international was performing so well in the play offs? It’s a good selection headache to have, and that’s where I’m asking have I got it all wrong? I still believe Anderlecht will win the league, especially after the loan signing of another striker themselves in Henry Onyekuru, but I truly believe they may progress in Europe too. But I won’t continue on Anderlecht within this.

Courtesy of Getty Images

The Blauw-Zwart begin their hunt to win back the title against against Lokeren at the Daknamstadion. Looking at their first five matches, and obviously it’s a new season, but Zulte Waregem away on matchday three at the Regenboogstadion is potentially their toughest match until mid September, when they have Mechelen, Charleroi, Gent and Oostende on the bounce! A good start always helps when tough times happen later in the season, but maintaining a good, strong and tough stance on the pitch, showing resilience. 

With a Champions League qualifier also to come, Europe could either work as a distraction or a springboard. It helped (and sorry again) Anderlecht in the run in, boosting confidence, and that could happen for Brugge, but it’ll be difficult nonetheless to juggle both. Hopefully the team will perform better this season than last in Europe anyway, and with this depth they may well do so!