Posted in Transfers

Smart Business by Brugge?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Anderlecht doing some smart and quick business. The season wasn’t finished and some of the signings were looking decent. They still are to be honest. But then a day after I published that post they’d signed Musona and Milic from Oostende and then my opinion changed. It was like a scattergun/lets raid Marc Coucke’s old club approach and then it didn’t look all that. Obviously I could be wrong again, but on the face of it right now, I have to say Club Brugge are signing quality and early.

I’ve always been a fan of getting players in early so that they can get a full pre season. It’s not always the case cause of medicals, negotiations etc, but if possible, integrate them ASAP! What I like most is that two of my favourite players in the Pro League have joined the champions and that’s what top clubs in their league need to do. Not farm players and just bring them in unfairly, but plan for the future and with that, add the quality that’s better than what you have, or could be better.

Mats Rits and Siebe Schrijvers are two of my favourite players in Belgium and both deserve the opportunity to progress. I’m probably incorrect, but is Rits the long term replacement for Vormer? Is Schrijvers the delayed replacement for Izquierdo? On a side note, last season’s success shows how well the club reacted to the loss of a quality player, whereas Anderlecht couldn’t cope with Tielemans leaving. But the youth and quality coming in is a sign of real progress on all fronts. You obviously have Groeneveld who could be a gem once his raring to go.

I guess the main business will have to be in goal. The manager and fans look undecided on all options. How Gabulov is in the Russia squad I don’t know. I like Horvath but I’m sure others don’t and so on… I love Vermeer and whether he’ll become permanent we don’t know. I’d also say another centre back personally, but the rest of the squad looks set. You have competition up front, youth on each flank and the biggest worry is keeping hold of Cools and Limbombe long term.

Obviously the other bonus is having Champions League football next season. As I typed that, a thought came into my head about why not try and bring Chuba Akpom back to Belgium? But with having that, you could sign good players on loan from top clubs who may be considered as ‘fringe players’ or carry on down this route of signings the star players from decent clubs. Both good options and could prove a good idea in building a squad for the league, cup and especially Europe. We saw how badly Belgian clubs did in Europe last season (all two of them) and maybe that was down to lack of depth rather than lack of quality.

This already looks exciting to me and Blauw-Zwart and there’s still plenty of time left. Leko can only get better (you’d think) and this upcoming season is the real test as retaining a title is usually more difficult than winning it. Club Brugge haven’t done that since 1978-78. Could the club not only do it, but continuously rebuild itself and have a dynasty under such a youthful coach? There’s still baby steps but it’s certainly not impossible, and longevity is tested through recruitment more than anything in football!

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Posted in Transfers

Anderlecht mean business

This season one team steamrolled the opposition points wise until the playoffs. It was as impressive as it was boring to be honest. Where Club Brugge were dominating, Anderlecht were dealing with a hell of a lot of stuff. Champions League football, managerial appointments, new ownership, mixing youth with new signings and with all that, Les Mauves missed out on Champions League football. Personally I think now looking on, the Europa League could be more of a blessing and finishing third could also be looked at as a blessing too.

The club now have what looks to be a positive future. Marc Coucke who is always bubbling with enthusiasm has such drive and willingness to win. This upcoming season already looks promising, even if you lose Dendoncker. The club are already preparing for that. Signing Cobbaut, Makarenko and today, Nkaka looks to be coming in too. It’s like the last two windows have been focusing on certain areas of the pitch. January was attack with Saief and Morioka and now it’s the defensive side.

With this blend, the Brussels club really do look, in my opinion, to be progressing and may do for the foreseeable future. Steadily adding to the team, they’re picking players from the teams in the league who know the division and are too good for that middle level. They’re one step ahead of Club Brugge who should look to next season right now, just as those at Anderlecht are doing. The only negative, and it’s Belgian football, not Anderlecht, is that when you have Atletico and Arsenal competing in the Europa League, Anderlecht will never win it, merely being that feeder club for those teams and others.

Coucke looks to have the foresight of what the team can do long term with this plan to promote youth, because we all know what quality Anderlecht can produce for profit, and who ‘may not be good enough’ will stay and be the best in Belgium. However, if you’re a player there already like Mbodji, Trebel, Teodorczyk and others, will they want more elsewhere? Will they feel they’ve achieved everything in Belgium and what a tougher task? Without being unfair, Morioka, Pieters and Kums will be more than happy at the club, especially Kums who has gone elsewhere and may want to stay long term in Belgium, but the others are young enough to win stuff and maybe progress on again.

This season was an eye opener in my opinion for what you can do with passion, vision and opportunity. That’s what Leko brought to the table and that’s almost what Coucke will do rather than Vanhaezebrouck, again, in my opinion. I never care about who wins the league because I am just a Pro League fan and nothing more. But this could be so exciting as the battle for the title could see Brugge, Standard and Anderlecht wrestling til the end, and not just proving to be a wasp at a picnic, buzzing around and irritating without stinging the main protagonist.

Posted in Transfers

Looking to next season?

Is it far too early to be doing this? I was looking at the playoff picture right now and could anyone surprise us whatsoever? I had a top nine going into this season. I had Anderlecht as dead certainties for the title with Michel Preud’homme moving on and even Gent pushing. The top 9 featured those who are currently in the top six, along with Zulte Waregem, Oostende and Mechelen!!! How wrong was I? How wrong was everyone? I had a tighter league though in the regular season. Not just one horse galloping clear to the finishing line.

At the other end I had Eupen, Mouscron and Antwerp fighting for survival, with Beveren, Lokeren, Kortrijk and STVV making up the numbers. I was wrong and right. Drastically wrong and comfortably right, not that others wouldn’t have predicted the four who did finish in safe positions. The thing is, I’m answering my own question from the opening gambit. It is too early. Not saying you can’t prepare for next season of course. Clubs will have summer targets, players who will be leaving. I mean Anderlecht under Marc Coucke are definitely preparing.

It’s okay for Club Brugge, Gent, Anderlecht, Standard Liège and Genk. Two of those are guaranteed European football right now and others will hope to squeak the other places, along with Essevee and Lokeren right now, but the latter two, along with the rest of the league and those who miss out in the top six are fucked in a way. How do you compete with clubs who DO have European football? Certain clubs (Sint Truiden) haven’t got a manager for next season right now whereas Oostende have. The rate managers come in and out of this revolving door which is the Pro League can make players uncertain, with short contracts and not a huge amount of cash.

Nothing is for certain in football. A question was asked to Gordon Strachan over here where they said ‘do you look at the fixtures coming up, and the next five for your opponents and guess where they’ll drop points?’ And he said you simply look at the next game. I thought Eupen would go, but they beat Charleroi, drew with Kortrijk and versus Gent. People have their reservations re the Mouscron win but since then they’ve downed tools. You can’t be confident predicting anything in Belgium.

You can’t be confident predicting anything anywhere though. How will Cercle fair? Will Beveren continue this slide? Will Makélélé be snapped up after the tremendous effort he put in? Will the best of the best be picked off again and moved on? Could Ivan Leko go? I know most of these are changes in the dugout but these are men who change things. Anastasiou to De Boeck. Changed everything at the Guldensporen.

As I’ve said, far too early to say will Lokeren, STVV, Kortrijk, Antwerp etc tear up any trees next season when we don’t know where they’ll be this season in the playoffs. I’m already excited for next season because it’s a new journey and let’s face it, we all love something to look forward too. On an unrelated note, I’m currently en route to Manchester to probably see that shower of shite called Arsenal get walloped. Good stuff…not!

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.

DMM.com 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…