BELGIUM: JPL Transfer Update

Belgium

For a football fan like me, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Opening Twitter, reading the newspapers, browsing football news sites… All looking for the same thing: Transfer news. Always wondering if your club finally signed that striker that you really need.

In Belgium, it’s not different. Anderlecht lost quite a few important players, Club Brugge lost their best player and Standard, they urgently needed to keep the fans happy. Here’s a round-up.

RSC Anderlecht

Incoming: Frank Acheampong (Buriram United), Federico Vico (Cordoba), Luka Milivojevic (Red Star Belgrade)

Outgoing: Lucas Biglia (Lazio Roma), Roland Juhasz (Videoton), Dieumerci Mbokani (Dynamo Kyiv), Denis Odoi (Lokeren), Tom De Sutter (Club Brugge), Behrang Safari (Basel), Sascha Iakovenko (Fiorentina), Milan Jovanic (Not known yet), Junior Kabananga (Cercle Brugge), Pablo Chavarria (RC Lens)

First of all, let’s start with the champions. It promised to be a hard transfer period for the Brussels side. Last year’s top striker, Dieumerci Mbokani, went on to grab some money in Ukraine. Lucas Biglia, 27-year old Argentinian midfielder, finally got his big move he always wanted and joined Italian side Lazio. Also, Milan Jovanovic (not yet known), Roland Juhasz (Videoton), Sascha Iakovenko (Fiorentina) and Tom De Sutter (Club Brugge) are some rather important players who left the Constant Vanden Stock stadium.

In return for that, they haven’t really signed any players who directly could replace the men they saw leaving. First of all, they’ve contracted Messi. Well, not REALLY Messi off course, but someone who is known as the Ghanese Messi. His real name is Frank Acheampong, he is 20 years old and RSCA found him in Buriram United (Thailand). Even if he’s named after Messi, his transfer fee isn’t as high as the Argentinian star player. Anderlecht closed the deal for just €1million.

Actually, they’ve signed him in the winter of last season, but he first got to prove himself with the reserves team before Anderlecht signed him for a longer period. That turned out to be a great decision, because when Anderlecht played the Viareggio Cup (and won it against Milan in the final), the Rossoneri directly declared their interest in Acheampong. Clearly an indicator that the Ghanese Messi has some potential.

Then there was Federico Vico. The 18-year old attacking midfielder got into the first team of Cordoba at only age 16. He became the youngest goalscorer in the club’s history and attracted the interests of Benfica, Liverpool and Bordeaux. Although, it was ‘Paars-Wit’ who signed him for a fee of €1.6 million.

The last notable incoming player in Anderlecht is Luka Milivojevic. He came over from Red Star Belgrade where he was mainly used as a defensive midfielder. The 22-year old Serbian player is told to be a hard working midfielder with a great technique. He should be the player who will let the fans forget about the loss of Biglia.

Club Brugge

Incoming: Spyros Fourlanos (Panthinaikos), Elton Monteiro (Arsenal), Matthew Ryan (Central Coast Mariners), Timmy Simons (FC Nürnberg), Shangyuan Wang (Beijing Yicheng), Tom De Sutter (Anderlecht), Valentinos Vlachos (AEK Athens)

Outgoing: Ryan Donk (Kasimpasa), Colin Coosemans (Waasland-Beveren), Bojan Jorgacevic (Erciyesspor), Jannes Vansteenkiste (FC Antwerp), Jimmy De Jonghe (SK Lierse), Thibaut Van Acker (Cercle Brugge), Bart Buysse (Cercle Brugge), Bjorn Vleminckx (Erciyesspor), Carl Hoefkens (Not known yet), Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Michael Almeback (Brøndby IF), Ivan Trickovski (Waasland-Beveren), Jordi Figueras (Betis Sevilla).

Another team that was really active on the transfer market is Club Brugge. In every of their last seven seasons without winning the league, the transfer periods have been very busy. This year was no different from that and again, just as the past seven seasons, the main goal is to win the league.

And yet, they’ve lost some players on the way. Ryan Donk left for Turkey (Kasimpasa) and so did Vleminckx (Erciyesspor). Bacca signed for Sevilla for at least €7.5 million and Michael Almebäck chose to join Brøndby IF. In return for that loss of quality, they really needed to sign some quality players, otherwise an eighth season without winning the league would become possible.

Maybe the most important incoming player of them all is Timmy Simons. The 37-year old midfielder comes back to Bruges after he left the club, eight years ago. With his leadership and endless amount of experience, he’s quite an enforcement, for the troops of Garrido. In those last eight years, he never missed any game for PSV and neither for Nurnberg. Ironically, in his first Jupiler Pro League match, he got a red card against Charleroi. That red card was only his third sending off in his career, knowing that he is a defensive midfielder, that’s an impressive statistic.

Another transfer which created huge amounts of media attention was the move from Anderlecht’s Tom De Sutter to arch rival Club Brugge. De Sutter first joined Club Brugge at age 16 but he left for 3th division side KM Torhout on his 20th. Later, when he arrived at Anderlecht after two successful years for Cercle Brugge (Club Brugge’s neighbours), he said RSCA was the team he always supported as a child and he came to see Anderlecht games with his father as a kid.

That makes the choice for Club Brugge even more awkward. After being benched most of the time in Brussels, he was looking for a place where he could play. Feyenoord, Steaua Bucharest, Hamburg, Rezispor were all interested in the services of the 27-year old striker. The fact he does live in Bruges may have played a big role in chosing for the black and blue side.

The last Brugge player I want to put in the spotlight is a 22-year old Chinese midfielder, Shangyuan Wang. As he came from the Chinese third division, nobody really expected immediate results from the youngster. But it was Wang who opened up the first league game against Charleroi, with a cracking strike from well outside of the box. He’s also a very determined player who always gives 200%. That makes he’s already loved by lots of Club Brugge fans.

Standard de Liège

Incoming: Alessandro Iandoli (STVV), Alpaslan Ozturk (Beerschot), Georgy Zhukov (Beerschot), Igor De Camargo (Hoffenheim), Ronnie Stam (Wigan), Yohann Thuram (Troyes), Tal Ben Haim (QPR)

Outgoing: Sinan Bolat (Porto), Luis Seijas (Contract terminated), Maor Buzaglo (Not known yet), Adrian Cristea (Contract terminated), Rami Gershon (Waasland-Beveren), Zadin Yaris (Ashdod), Laurent Henkinet (STVV), Guillermo Mendez (STVV)

Before we start with talking about the key players Standard signed up, I’ve got to explain something. Roland Duchatelet is the chairman of the Rouches. He bought the club, two years ago for €40 million. Before he reigned at Standard, he was the chairman at Sint-Truiden (now second division) and saved them from bankruptcy.

Now Duchatelet made his name with investing in companies and selling them when they’re worth more. That makes him the 15th richest Belgian. I point this out just to make clear he’s a successful businessman, but that’s all. He doesn’t know very much about football and certainly nothing about a vision. He proved that when he dismissed Mircea Rednic as the Standard coach.

With limited powers, Rednic managed to get into the play-offs and secured European football in a play-off final with a 7-0 win over AA Gent. Rednic, ex-Standard player himself, was loved with the (very passionate) fans.

Then came the very peculiar decision from Duchatelet to let him go and replace Rednic with Guy Luzon, a 28-year old Israeli manager, who only managed Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Tel Aviv and the Under 21 from Israel before. The fans were furious and demanded the resignation of Duchatelet. They’ve also stormed in on a director’s meeting to make sure they’ve delivered the message clearly.

So, in order for Duchatelet to stay at the club, he had to come up with some new players. The first one that the fans loved was Igor De Camargo. At the age of 30, he returns to his old home, Sclessin. He was there when Standard took 2 consecutive titles after a 25-year drought and fans don’t forget the players that make them champions. After three years in the Bundesliga (Mönchengladbach and Hoffenheim) he returns with big expectations. It will be hard though, to get into the starting eleven with players like Mujangi-Bia, Mpoku, Ezekiel and Batshuayi all fighting for the same center forward spot.

I personally also love the fact that Standard got Ronnie Stam from Wigan Athletic. The Liège side didn’t have to pay a fee as his contract had ended. Stam is an absolute bargain for a club like Standard who, in my opinion, misses just that little bit of class to grab some silverware. With Stam and his Premier League experience, I really think he could be one of the better players of the Pro League this season.

And since we’re talking about bargains, let me drop the name of Alpaslan Öztürk. The 20-year Turkish-Belgian player started his career at age 14 at Beerschot. After a less successful stay at Birmingham, he went back to Beerschot and got himself into the first team at age 18. But when Beerschot went bankrupt he got released of his contract, and yet again, Standard saw his chance to get a very good player for no money at all. He got his first promising playing minutes for Standard in the second game against SK Lierse, which they’ve won 3-0, thanks to a Mujangi-Bia hat-trick.

Other teams

Off course, it wasn’t only the bigger clubs who bought some good quality players. Below, I’ll summarize the most important and exciting new players in the Belgian League.

Last year, Cercle Brugge ended bottom last. But, as some of you know, the Jupiler Pro League has a play-off system in which the bottom last team (even if they get 0 points during the season) can save themselves to stay in the top flight. Cercle Brugge made a handy use of that system and has beaten first Beerschot and afterwards three teams from the second division, to stay up. To avoid another nasty season like last year’s one, they urgently needed some enforcements. The question however is, with Bart Buysse and Thibaut Van Acker coming over from city rivals Club Brugge, if that’s enough to stay up this season. The rest of the team has been filled up with some promising youngsters that has not really proven anything for now.

At Racing Genk, the best transfer they did was just Fabian Camus, who came back after a successful loan spell at AC Troyes. In 32 games, he scored 7 goals and gave 6 assists. After having the luxury last year with Glynor Plet and Elyaniv Barda, Genk-coach Mario Been now really needs Camus in his squad to have some creativity behind striker Jelle Vossen.

The real surprise came in, just a few days ago, when Ilombé Mboyo signed for Genk. At first, the ex-Gent player was looking to play for a club in the Premier League, but when West Ham United fans didn’t want him (due to his past in prison for gang rape), he focused on getting a transfer to Anderlecht. They wanted him, but couldn’t get an agreement with AA Gent about the transfer fee.

So just when everybody thought he would stay at Gent, it was Genk who came knocking on the door. They gave him a contract for 4 years and, according to some sources, Genk payed between €4 and €5 million for the 26-year old ‘Petit Pélé’ Mboyo. That’s the highest amount Genk ever paid for a player. No pressure, Ilombé!

From the first day of the pre-season, AA Gent knew they would lose Mboyo in this transfer period. That’s why they went shopping in Mechelen and bought Nicklas Pedersen. The 26-year old Danish striker, responsible for 12 goals in 25 games last year, will have a hard time following up Mboyo, who scored 22 goals last season.

Carlos Diogo is also a player that could well be a key player for Gent this year. With his huge amount of experience after periods with River Plate, Real Madrid, Real Zaragoza and Huesca, the Uruguayan left back already show what he’s worth. In the first game for Gent in the new Ghelamco Arena, he decided the game in the dying seconds with a beautiful header.

Then there is Waasland-Beveren, and last season wasn’t all that well for them. But they managed to stay up, thanks to Glenn De Boeck, who turned things around after a very bad start. But now, they clearly want to end higher up the ranks. Several followers of the Belgian Jupiler Pro League wondered how it was possible that such a small club can buy such good players. A small overview.

First of all, they’ve signed Rami Gershon. The Standard-player was loaned to Celtic last season, where he only played three games. It still is a remarkable transfer for Beveren to sign. Another player which also caught my attention was Ivan Tričkovski. The Macedonian striker is 26 years old, and once was the top-scorer in the Cypriot First Division for APOEL. After a full season on the bench at Club Brugge, he clearly chose to get some playing time and step down a level. If Tričkovski plays at the same level as in APOEL, Beveren has got a diamond in their hands.

The last big name who moved to Beveren is Milos Maric. The 31-year old Serbian midfielder often was a stand-in for Ivan Leko at Lokeren, last season. To avoid that, he grabbed his chance to be the playmaker at Beveren. It’s the kind of player you’ll sure about that he’s going to score goals. In his case, especially free kicks, which is his most dangerous weapon.

Last but not least is Lokeren. The surprising fifth of last year’s regular competition made a clear statement they won’t settle for anything less than last year. First of all, they’ve bought Hans Vanaken, a 20-year old striker from second division side Lommel United. He surprised with two brilliant goals on the first game of the season against Anderlecht. At the end, Lokeren snatched the win with 2-3 at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadion. The other goal scorer for Lokeren was Jordan Remacle. At the age of 26, he already played for Genk, Leuven, Gent, Beveren Roosendaal and now Lokeren. And I think, this stay could last a little bit longer. After the loss of De Ceulaer last season, who went to Genk, and the injury of South-African wonderkid Ayanda Patosi, they need someone who places the strikers in front of the goal. I think Remacle is just the man for that.

So, that sums up quite a big list of players to look out for this season. It promises to be an exciting season with the young Anderlecht side, a new faced Club Brugge and why not, Standard who didn’t get rid of their strongest players. It’s game on!

Pieter-Jan Claeysens

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