By The Belgian Football Podcast / @BelgianPodcast
Belgium has produced some of the world’s top footballers over the last decade, from the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, to Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois Alderweireld. Most of the current Belgian set up learnt the game in the Belgian Pro League. While the league is not on par in terms of quality with the likes of La Liga, the English Premier League and the Bundesliga, it is certainly an entertaining league with plenty of talented youngsters.
Future talent is just one of many reasons why you should follow the Pro League. While there may be a bias for me, hosting the only English language podcast dedicated to the league, hopefully I can persuade you to engage with this highly entertaining and unpredictable league.
The title race
Last season, Club Brugge were running away with the league before COVID-19 brought an end to the season. This season, however, the title race is incredibly close. Only 6 points separates Anderlecht in 7th to Beerschot in 1st. In between we have the likes of Antwerp, Charleroi, Standard Liege, Club Brugge and Genk. As of writing, Genk are the inform side, despite being on their third manager of the season.
Fans of English football will be interested in Anderlecht, who are now fully under the management of Vincent Kompany. Many will have heard of Anderlecht, the most successful side in Belgian football history. The side is no where near the giants of the league that they were in the past, yet there are signs of steady improvement this season. Winning the league is unlikely for Kompany and the Brussels based side, but the way this season is going anything is possible.
Club Brugge were certainly the favourites prior to the season, however it appears their lack of activity in the transfer window is coming back to bite them. This season they have lost to both of the newly promoted sides in Beerschot and Lueven, while just this weekend past they failed to beat bottom of the league Mouscron. Brugge’s lack of dominance has led to a situation where the league title is wide open.
If you haven’t heard of Beerschot then you really need to change that. The recently promoted side are top of the league, having won 9 of their 14 games so far this season. Remarkably, they are the leagues top scorers, while also having concede the most goals this season. They have bagged 38 goals and conceded 33, so it is not surprising that they have only drawn one game this season. So far this season their results have included a 6-3 victory over Sint-Truiden, a 5-2 victory over Genk, a 5-1 defeat to Gent and a 5-5 draw with Kortrijk.
Their talismanic player is Raphael Holzhauser, the Austrian central midfielder who is given a free role in the side to create and score. He currently has 10 goals, the second most in the league, and 9 assists, the most in the league. Holzhauser recently signed a new contract with the side until 2023 and it isn’t hard to see why Beerschot decided they wanted to keep him around.
One other player who perhaps doesn’t get as many plaudits because of Holzhausers brilliance is Tarik Tissoudali, the Moroccan striker has been in fantastic form so far this season with 7 goals and 5 assists himself. He, alongside Holzhauser, make watching Beerschot highly entertaining.
Their manager, Hernan Losada, is only 38 years old and has worked his way up from technical assistant to full time manager. The Argentinian spent many seasons of his professional career at the club, retiring as a player there in 2018. This great story has seen him take them up to the Pro League and to the top of the table. For how long he can keep up this incredible success remains to be seen, but for now it is highly recommended you check out a Beerschot game, you will not be disappointed!
As was alluded to in the introduction, the Pro League is a fine league for developing young players. There are plenty of talented youngsters for most of the sides, so this list is by no means extensive and there will certainly be many more.
Aster Vranckx is an 18-year-old midfielder for KV Mechelen. His miss against KV Oostende went viral on twitter and was certainly one of the worst misses of the season. However, just weeks later he scored twice against Sint-Truiden with great finishes. He has been linked with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, so is certainly one to keep an eye on.
Charles De Ketelare of Club Brugge is another interesting prospect. Only 19 years of age, but looking even younger than that, the tall winger has really broken into the first team this season. His goal against Zenit St Petersburg in the dying minutes to win the game is perhaps the highlight of this season so far. Phillipe Clement, the manager at Club Brugge, is clearly a fan of the youngster.
Anderlecht have always been one to produce talented youngsters. They recently sold Jeremy Doku to Stade Rennes for a sizeable fee. Albert Sambi Lokonga looks like another fine talent produced by the side. The 21-year-old has captained the team numerous times this season, and looks to be a fine central midfielder capable of developing into someone who could play at a far higher level.
The old guard
It’s not just about the youngsters however, with the experienced players still rolling back the years. Arguably the pick of the bunch is Lior Rafaelov of Royal Antwerp. The Israeli playmaker scored the winner against Tottenham in the Europa League, and has managed to find the net 5 times this season, while also providing 3 assists. The 34-year-old is still one of the best players in the league and a joy to watch.
Recently promoted Leuven have their own experienced talisman in Xavier Mercier. The 31-year-old Frenchman has also managed 5 goals this season, while providing 7 assists. Mercier is a pivotal player for the newcomers and his technical ability helps him to create chances for his teammates. He was a pivotal player in their promotion from the second tier and has continued to play to a high level this year.
This is just a brief overview which I hope will entice you into following this highly entertaining league. As previously mentioned, I host a English language podcast creatively named the Belgian Football Podcast alongside, where we cover all the stories and matches from the weekend. We are delighted to join with CFB and provide articles covering our favourite league.