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!

Posted in Transfers

Onyekuru is a Toffee

Five weeks ago I made a long, gruelling journey to Eupen in West Belgium via Cologne and Aachen by planes, trains and automobiles (literally). When I finally reached Eupen, the heavens opened and after a mile walk I reached the Kehrweg Stadion. A nice and clean stadium where me and my friend were waiting to interview Diawandou Diagne on how the season went. After an hour wait til I had the chance to interview, the Eupen players and staff were walking in and out of doors, eating lunch and recovering from a match the night before against Mouscron.

Within that time a minibus arrived right outside the front entrance to the stadium. Six players came out and were congregating around a fan asking for autographs, when out of nowhere, one player separated himself from the group and made his way over to me, shook my hand, put his arm around me and said ‘Hello. How are you?’. That player was a raw 19 year old who had been banging in goals all season. That boy was Henry Onyekuru. A gentleman. A young man where he had no ego and was simply polite, welcoming and just warm. After him, every player on that minibus welcomed themselves before getting changed.

I was stunned at how polite he was. Not because I had an opinion beforehand, because I didn’t, but he was so friendly that a potential superstar was setting an example for his teammates. After that a Belgian journalist asked what I was doing before I pointed him towards the direction of Onyekuru, who he was meeting that day, before I followed upstairs to interview Senegal international Diagne. Even during my interview I probed and prodded possible destinations regarding the young Nigerian, as I had heard Sevilla were the main protagonists.

On the way back to Cologne, me and my photographer scoffed over possible destinations and transfer fees for him, mentioning Arsenal at around £5 million, and I was close, coming back to strong rumours of the Gunners offering £6.8 million. Then West Ham and Anderlecht were circling for the in demand striker, graduating from the Aspire Academy just 2 seasons ago. However, news has broken that Everton have put up the cash at around £7 million, which is a steal! Think about it…22 league goals in your first top flight season for a team hoping to simply finish fifteenth. Still a teenager who is now a full international, where £7 million to a Premier League club is peanuts. Everton have nothing to lose!

Missing out on overall top scorer in the Pro League, to his new teammate at Anderlecht Lukasz Teodorczyk, due to scoring less goals away, Anderlecht have had a masterstroke. Forty four goals between the top two, with a big man-little man combination upfront and will be playing Champions League football next season, which is only beneficial to Everton. Ronald Koeman has done magnificently at what some may consider a gamble, but which is really no risk at all. At a time where Nathan Ake, who does have Premier League experience, but has been bought for £20 million is unbelievable on the face of it.

Not just because I write about the Belgian Pro League and that I’ve met Henry Onyekuru, I really hope he succeeds. A humble young man who has worked hard for a team like Eupen whose history consists of lower league football, but who are now owned by the Aspire Academy, maybe more is still to come from this small club in the shadow of Standard Liege, and more young fledgling prospects will continue to come out of this club. For Everton, I believe he may well succeed, and performing for Anderlecht regularly is a start! All the best Henry!

Posted in Transfers

Brief Transfer Roundup Part V

Later than first advertised, although it’s getting later by the week. This is the 5th edition of a transfer roundup and I guess the wait for me to post this is due to the inactivity of clubs. Of course deals are being broke regularly, but comings and goings are beginning to slow down from what I’ve seen now that friendlies are taking place and managers are seeing how their squads are shaping up.

My last post on here regarded Sint Truiden and Tintin Marquez coming in. However, bad news broke almost at the same time regarding Stef Peeters who has moved to Caen. Shame for both JPL fans and especially those at the Staaien too. With Gerkens also gone, a rebuild is on the agenda. Good news though is that Babacar Gueye and Igor Vetokele have come in on loan, with the latter hopefully picking up from where he left off last season. To wrap up STVV, Charis Charisis, Stelios Kitsiou and Jordan Botaka have also all come in!

Other deals at Anderlecht and Zulte Waregem were also completed, with both still busy as ever in the market. Starting with the champions, Les Mauves lost Stephane Badji on loan to Kayserispor, Sebastian De Maio going back to Italy and Andy Kawaya moving to Mechelen. Matz Sels has come back to Belgium to Anderlecht on loan from Newcastle. 

Regarding Zulte, that had some loan and permanent deals including Anderlecht, with Aaron Leya Iseka and Michael Heylen moving to Waregem. Julien De Sart also come in from Middlesbrough too.

Still plenty of deals happened whether they’re temporary or permanent throughout the league with Manuel Benson stepping up from Lierse to Genk and Jordi Vanlerberghe moving to Club Brugge. I feel like listing more deals but at the threat of already boring you I won’t continue, but next season already looks like it could be huge!

I’ll leave with the prospect of Henry Onyekurus proposed move to Everton with it being reasonably big over here! Good luck to the young gentleman.

Posted in Transfers

Brief JPL Transfer Roundup Part IV

It has been just over a week since my last summary of the wheeling and dealing in Belgium, and it’s safe to say it’s picked up rather than slowed down! I’ve counted 21 transfers and loan deals involving Pro League clubs, only to wake up to another one this morning, which I will come to in a moment. A couple of deals are pretty big too, mainly because of the clubs involved.

What I mean by that is the announcement of 2 huge deals yesterday. Firstly, Pieter Gerkens left Sint Truiden to move to Anderlecht in a €4 million deal, mainly because the player has stepped up and I felt a move was definitely on the cards going by the season he had. And then Nany Dimata has sadly left Belgium altogether​ and went east to Wolfsburg in Germany! Massive deal worth around €10 million! Oostende can do sommuch with that money going into next season, but as long as they keep Knowledge Musona, I think they’ll still compete at the top end.

Other deals involving big clubs, mainly outside the country, include Keres Masungo moving from Mechelen to Roma, Sebastien Pocognoli moving to Standard Liege from West Brom, Richairo Zivkovic coming to Oostende from Ajax and a deal I didn’t write about amongst the Zulte Waregem deals completed so far on Saturday, Soualiho Meïté joining Youri Tielemans at Monaco. So plenty happening in Belgium regarding ins and outs and big clubs across Europe too.

I’m going to talk about Club Brugge though for a moment. Ivan Leko is still trying to put his squad together this pre season and this week the door has been opening and closing. In came Guillaume Hubert from Standard Liege, maybe to challenge Ethan Horvath for the No. 1 spot at the club? And also, announced this morning was the signing of Marvelous Nakamba from Vitesse Arnhem to replace legend Timmy Simons! The Zimbabwean signed a four year deal at the Jan Breydel Stadion and will prove to be a good athlete, along with hoping to add real quality. Out of the club went Nikola Storm in another loan deal and Sebastien Bruzzese permanently moving to Kortrijk. The 28 year old has been at some very big clubs in Belgium but has been made surplus to requirements at Brugge, hopefully finding a real home in Kortrijk!

Without literally discussing every signing, there has been money spent and papers signed, with more to come that’s for sure!

Posted in Transfers

Ware are the Gems at Zulte

Another quality title to add to my tally…hmmm, anyway, I wrote a piece for a website about Lokeren and immediately thought, I should’ve saved it for my blog. So that’s why my Belgian football topics will remain here, and Zulte Waregem definitely deserve some of my time as they have been relatively busy leading up to the transfer window opening, maybe making a real go at next season domestically and now they’re in the Europa League?

With the loss of Henrik Dalsgaard to Brentford and the strong rumours which I no longer think are rumours of Mbaye Leye running his contract down, re-enforcements are very much needed, but I believe they’ve wheeled and sealed very well so far. I know I posted on Monday about shrewd signings of Ben Reichert and Nill De Pauw will add a hint of savviness to the squad, plying their trade in different leagues which are different to the Pro League in good ways, and will add quality too. The early acquisition Sandy Walsh was a good piece of business in my opinion too.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Adding someone with the know how of the league is invaluable, as well as having continental experience going so far with Genk last season in Europe is a huge bonus. Adding that Pro League experience as well is Gertjan De Mets, maybe with the club thinking if Kortrijk can raise their squad, we’ll take one in return!?! But either way, I think so far there has been good business dealt in the post/pre season, as it seems to have overlapped in Belgium.

It was a shame to see Lukas Lerager go because if he is good enough for Ligue 1 and Bordeaux, he is good enough for Zulte Waregem, which sounds disrespectful maybe to De Pauw, who has made a reversal, but it isn’t really because I think the Pro League has stepped up to the level of some Ligue 1 clubs, including Bordeaux and Guingamp. But with these comings and goings, some players have left the club which may mean more deals or a freshening up of a squad which looked stale come the end of the season, where they downed tools and looked forward to their holidays by the looks of it.

Courtesy of Getty Images

I just hope we see a competitive Zulte this season and maybe run the top 2 closer this season, if the cup doesn’t get in the way again. End of the day, silverware is always important, especially to the fans!

Posted in Transfers

Brief JPL Transfer Roundup Part III

I didn’t think I’d have any consistency with a transfer roundup in Belgium. I originally began writing a blog regarding this because it was a stop gap. But, in a week where I was scratching around waiting for this blog post in a ‘slow’ week, even though there have been transfers, fireworks were let off in the dugouts of 2 of the biggest clubs in the country.

Firstly, Ivan Leko made himself back at home in Brugge, and then yesterday it was announced Ricardo Sa Pinto would also make himself back at home, but in Liege. With these 2 hirings, and with Sint Truiden on the search for a new boss, this must mean more names are on the way into the JPL? 

This week there were 12 transfers involving Pro League sides, with Zulte Waregem being the busiest with a ‘one in one out’ system by the looks of it. Then again, it may just be a come and buy me plea to Kortrijk who have taken Bryan Verboom and Christophe Lepoint, both moving to the Guldensporenstadion. Verboom will surely replace Joáozinho who has gone back home to Portugal with Tondela. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

But back to Zulte Waregem, with those 2 leaving, Ben Reichert and Nill De Pauw have been brought in. With Europa League football next season, maybe buying from Hapoel Tel Aviv and Guingamp respectively, players will be more battled hardened, as well as signing from different, yet, competitive leagues could bring other options to the side.

Other deals that were notable to me involved Fabien Antunes moving from Oostende to Sint Truiden, the last deal before Leko departed. And Ryota Morioka. A Japanese midfielder that Waasland Beveren signed from Śląsk Wrocław in Poland (I added the accents and letters for effect). He performed reasonably well averaging just under a goal every 3 matches in the season and a half he was over there, which I think is pretty decent, and may hopefully hit the ground running like the fantastic Yuya Kubo. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

Lastly, one deal which slipped under the radar was the Orel Mangala switch from Anderlecht to Stuttgart. He was on loan at Borussia Dortmund but has now moved permanently to Stuttgart. I bring this deal up because he must have quality, by why not in Rene Weiler’s plans? Anyway, more next week I’m sure (hopefully).