About four years ago, it could be argued that Belgian players had hardly had any influence on the Premier League, with former Newcastle defender Phillipe Albert previously being the most successful Belgian in the history of the division.
However, if you are to look at the current Belgium national team, most of the starting XI play their club football in England, with those players often being the stars of their club. Surprisingly, all of these players are younger than 28, meaning the players could and should improve as time goes on.
This backs up the rumours and mutters that the Belgium national team could be a force to reckon with in a couple of years and a couple of tournaments time. This is welcoming news for the Belgians, who haven’t qualified for the past five international championships, despite an impressive record in previous decades.
The recent influx of top Belgian talent started in the summer of 2008, when both Vincent Kompany and Marouane Fellaini arrived in England from Hamburg and Standard Liege respectively. Since then, a further eight players have laid claim to starting places at their clubs and in the national side.
Chelsea have bought – and spent huge money on – two high profile talents in Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, and both players have really impressed in the past Premier League campaign. Others who have had a great domestic season include Christian Benteke, Jan Vertonghen, Simon Mignolet and Kevin Mirallas.
These players joined the experienced duo of Mousa Dembele and Thomas Vermaelen in establishing themselves as key players for both club and country. Chelsea also have two Belgian internationals out on loan, in Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne, who have additionally been given some international experience.
If a Belgian right-back was to arrive in the Premier League this summer, a theoretical Belgian Premier League XI could be created, and such a team would be scarily formidable. This is what it could potentially look like:
Mignolet; Right-back, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Mirallas, Fellaini, Dembele, Hazard; Lukaku, Benteke.
There are only 10 Belgians currently in the Premier League – the 10 players named in the potential team above. Only England, Spain and France could boast a probable stronger national XI based on players playing in the Premier League (should a Belgian right-back was to arrive in England).
This is extremely pleasing for Belgians and fans of their national side, especially given the other talent playing on the continent. Axel Witsel, Steven Defour, Daniel Van Buyten, Dries Mertens and Nicolas Lombaerts all play for strong European clubs, with Van Buyten recently winning the German treble with Bayern Munich.
Currently, Belgium are top of their World Cup qualifying group, featuring Wales, Scotland, Serbia, Croatia and Macedonia with four games to play. If they were to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Brazil, it’d be Belgium’s first tournament since the 2002 World Cup.
Whilst Belgian clubs often struggle to make an impact on European club competitions, Belgium could start to impress on the international scene should their players play to their potential and utilise their talent. The future of Belgian football looks very bright, and it would not be surprising if the national side threatens the latter stages of future international tournaments.
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