Ranking the 5 best Belgian players in the Premier League
Belgium have really risen to prominence in international football in recent years, finishing third in the 2018 World Cup and currently sitting at the top of FIFA’s world-rankings. There has been much talk of a ‘golden generation’ in Belgian football in the last 5 – 10 years, and after compiling this list it is not hard to see why!
It has been difficult to leave some top players out such as Moussa Dembélé, Toby Alderweireld and Thibault Courtois who have enjoyed great success in the Premier League, but this just goes to show how many good players the Red Devils have produced. Read on to see who has made Tenner’s all-time top five!
5. Jan Vertonghen
Vertonghen’s 123 international appearances make him Belgium’s all-time most capped player. The majority of these caps came during an 8-year stint at Tottenham where he was a very important figure in their defence, his versatility meaning that he could play as both a centre-back and a left-back. Under Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs enjoyed a lot of consistency and relative success, qualifying for the Champions League in four consecutive seasons between 2015 and 2019. Vertonghen’s pairing with compatriot Toby Alderweireld was an important factor in this, and when Spurs finished second in the 2016/17 season they had the meanest defence in the league, conceding just 26 goals. Vertonghen also made the PFA Player’s Team of the year twice, showing how highly he was rated by his fellow professionals.
4. Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku is the highest scoring Belgian in Premier League history, notching 113 goals in 252 appearances for Chelsea, West Brom, Everton and Manchester United. He became the youngest foreign player to join the “100 Club” at just 24, and his tally puts him at 20th on the all-time list. Had he not been sold to Inter Milan by Man United, he would likely be pushing for a place in the top 10 by now. Lukaku is a big, strong presence, but far from your archetypal ‘target-man’ striker. He is explosive and capable of outrunning most defenders, whilst he can also score with both feet. His 35 assists prove that he is effective at bringing others into the game as well. Lukaku is also Belgium’s all-time top scorer with 57 goals, and at the age of just 27 and without a Premier League winner’s medal, it is possible that we might see him playing in England again.
3. Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany joined Manchester City in 2008 from Hamburg, and in the next 11 years went on to win four Premier League titles, becoming a certified club legend in the process. He became club captain in the 2011/12 season, and it is little surprise that Man City finally ended a 44 year wait to win a first division title that season, with Kompany also being named as Premier League player of the year.
Kompany was originally deployed as a defensive midfielder, but quickly transitioned into a centre-back who was not only strong and athletic, but also assured with the ball at his feet. He was fiercely competitive and a hugely influential leader for City both on and off the pitch, and his significance is highlighted by the fact that they would often struggle defensively when he was out injured. Kompany also scored 20 Premier League goals in his career, and had a penchant for scoring ‘big goals’ in crucial moments that were vital to City’s success. Most notable are Kompany’s emphatic header in a 1-0 victory over title rivals Manchester United in 2012, and of course this absolute screamer against Leicester in May 2019 which allowed City to just pip Liverpool to the title by a single point.
2. Eden Hazard
It may come as a surprise not to see Hazard at the top of this list. His pace, skill and flair were outstanding and for years he was Chelsea’s most important player, winning the PFA Player of the year in 2014/15 and helping his team win two Premier league titles. On his day he was truly unplayable, registering 84 goals and 54 assists in 245 Premier League appearances.
However, there is still somewhat of a nagging sense of frustration and wasted potential with Hazard. Perhaps it is unfair to compare him and his stats to the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, but for a player of his quality and hype you would have expected him to score more than 16 goals in a single season, which he managed in 2016/17 and his final season at Stamford Bridge. That being said, he was still a firm favourite among Chelsea fans, and as his highlights show below, it is easy to see why.
1. Kevin De Bruyne
Coming in at number one, and just beating Eden Hazard, is Kevin De Bruyne. He is widely regarded as the best central midfielder in the world right now, and was voted the PFA player of the year for the 2019/20 season despite Liverpool running away with the Premier League title. De Bruyne struggled to establish himself initially at Chelsea and was sold to Wolfsburg, before being bought by Manchester City in 2015 for a then club record £55 million, a fee which many argued was over the odds.
How wrong they have proven to be, as De Bruyne has become an integral part of Pep Guardiola’s winning machine, lifting two Premier League trophies, four League Cups and one FA Cup. The way City are dominating this year, it seems inevitable he will add at least another two to his tally, perhaps even the Champions League which has so far eluded the club. De Bruyne has scored 41 goals and recorded 77 assists in the Premier League, meaning he averages a goal involvement every 100 minutes.
He also sits 10th on the all-time assist list, a position he will undoubtedly improve on in the coming years. In the 2019/20 season alone De Bruyne recorded 20 assists, the joint-highest for a single season with Premier League icon Thierry Henry the only other player to do so. But the thing about De Bruyne is that he is so much more than stats. His technique and range of passing are exquisite, whilst some of the goals he has scored for City have been truly remarkable. Enjoy a selection of them here.
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