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Apr 03

Belgium’s bands of brothers

Eden Hazard - first off the production line

Eden Hazard – first off the production line

A few days ago I read an article in La Dernière Heure reporting that a young 17 year-old midfielder had signed a three-year contract with Standard Liege. The player in question was Reda Jaadi, an U17 Belgium international not really on my radar. His agent, a one-time journeyman midfielder at Maine Road, Christian Negouai, describes Reda as a mix between Hatem Ben Arfa and Javier Pastore. Nothing special there you might say, as agents do tend to move into hyperbole mode when discussed their protégées.

Then today, the same paper announced that his brother Nabil, 15, is likely to sign a three-year contract with Anderlecht. Not only that, he is said to be brightest star in his age group. But wait; there are two younger brothers – both already signed up with clubs in Belgium. This got me thinking about the bands of brothers that are breaking through in the various levels of Belgium’s international teams and wondering how many will make it to the top.

Pride of place must go to the Hazards – four brothers whose parents both played football to a high level. The oldest son, Eden, plays for Lille and needs no introduction. Aged 21, the explosive winger is recognised to be the most valuable player in La Liga. He’s recently been linked with all of the Premier league clubs that have evem a remote chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions’ League. The next in line is Thorgan, 18, on the Lens payroll, where he has made a few first-team appearances this season. He’s more of a midfield playmaker than his elder brother and has made a number of starts for the Belgium U19 side. After that come Kylian (16) who is already at the Lille academy and Ethan, just 7, who is having a run with the juniors at Belgian second division club Tubize. The elder boys have all been sent to France by father Thierry who felt they would receive a better footballing education over the border.

Romelu Lukaku - an elder brother

Romelu Lukaku – an elder brother

Moving on, there are the two Lukaku brothers. The elder, Romelu, aged 18, became one of the most expensive teenagers in world football when he left the Constant Vanden Stock stadium for Chelsea in 2011. Sadly it has proved to be a move too soon and he’s hardly figured at the London club since his transfer. He’s due to go on loan next season and his time may well come. Romelu’s problems – in the footballing sense – should act as a warning to other youngsters; however, given the size of his transfer fee, his family and his agent are probably not too concerned at the moment. His younger brother Jordan, 17, has just played his first few minutes in the Anderlecht first team at left back. Apparently the crowd welcomed his arrival and that could give the boy confidence. Having said that, he’s apparently more ‘in your face’ than the rather laid-back Romelu and it will be interesting to see how they both progress. Jordan has a few U19 caps while his brother is – of course – a fully-fledged international. Jordan may eventually struggle in the face of comments that he’s only getting the opportunity because of his brother; a comment that could one day apply to anyone in these dynasties.

The next set of brothers is somewhat different, however, as all three Musonda brothers can be seen as future prospects. All three are on Anderlecht’s books, with the eldest – Lamisha, 20 – being an established U21 international who has yet to appear in the Brussels’ club’s first team. His first problem will be making people forget his father, Charly Musonda, who was a stalwart of the Anderlecht side in the eighties and nineties. Lamisha is a cultured midfielder who impressed when the Belgium U21 side beat England in Mons last year. After him comes Tika, another midfielder – aged 18 and an U18 Belgium international. Their future problem will be making an impact before the youngest Musonda, Charly Junior, comes along; he’s been described by ex-Anderlecht coach Johan Boskamp as a “mix between Xavi and Iniesta”. Hyperbole perhaps but all the usual suspects have tried to sign him, with Barcelona being the most insistent. With all the talk about him, Charly Junior, 15, has a heavy weight to carry. He’s often appeared for the Belgium U16 team and can be seen on YouTube.

Charly Musonda Junior - set for the top

Charly Musonda Junior – set for the top

So that takes me back to the Jaadi brothers. The aforementioned Reda started out in the Belgian lower leagues prior to joining FC Brussels, then Standard Liege and Lille, before returning to Sclessin. He’s a confident boy and he says he wants to be in the Standard first team within a year. He’s a classical Number 10 – which could be problematic with Jose Riga in charge – and the player he most admires is Axel Witsel. Reda says he’s impressed that the Benfica midfielder didn’t leave for a bigger club too soon.

Moving on, Reda’s younger brother Nabil, 15, is said to be the outstanding player in the Anderlecht U16s, and that ‘includes’ the aforementioned Charly Musonda Junior. There’s been a real tug-of-war between Anderlecht and Standard, to see who gets Nadil into the professional ranks. Anderlecht seem to be winning this particular battle. Then there are twins, Walid and Khalid Jaadi, who are with Standard and FC Brussels U14s respectively. Three of the Jaadi brothers, with the exception of Khalid, appear to be signed up with Negouai, an agent who says he specialises in working with young talent.

Although the Hazards hail from deepest Wallonia, La Louviere, the others followed a longer and more winding road to find themselves in Belgium. The Lukaku brothers are of Congolese origin, so they owe their routes to Belgium’s colonial past. Their father Roger was a Congolese international who played for several teams in Belgium, including Seraing and Germinal Ekeren. He also had an unhappy season with Gençlerbirliği, a lesson that meant he insisted Romelu stayed in Belgium to finish his studies before joining Chelsea.

The Musonda brothers also have an international footballer for a father, as Charly Musonda played for Zambia, as well as for Anderlecht, in a defensive midfield role. In 1994 he was selected to play for his home country, but Anderlecht refused to let him play. That saved his life as, tragically, the plane carrying the Zambian team crashed on its way to Senegal with the deaths of everyone on board. Charly Musonda senior remained in Belgium and now works for Anderlecht in the commercial department. A deal has been arranged so that all three brothers will stay at Anderlecht for some years.

The Jaadi brothers are of Moroccan origin, rather like other ex-Standard Liege players such as Marouane Fellaini and Mehdi Carcela. Such players are able to choose who they play for, and in those particular cases, Fellaini opted for Belgium while Carcela preferred to take his chances with Morocco. Reda Jaadi and his brothers have not made that decision yet but, whatever the outcome, the various sets of brothers should have a large part to play in international football in the next decade. Certainly Belgian football is interesting, and that interest is not restricted to the five or six players in the Premier League.



2 comments

  1. Gary

    Great article John. I think you really come into your own writing about the young players yet to make or just starting to make their way in the professional game.

    I read some fans thought it was a shame that Deschacht replaced Safari at left-back against Kortrijk ahead of Jordan Lukaku and they showed Deschacht having a poor game. It remains to be seen if JL will end up being a left-back or playing further forward. Safari to me is one of the better buys from HvH in recent years and it would be wrong were he not to be first-choice in the medium-long term for however long he is there. However, any new coach will have to ensure the considerable young talent is given its head.

  2. Davison musuku

    Bravo to musonda’s boys,work hard we are proud of you.remember not to forget about your origin.u are still zambitious zambians.once a zambian always a zambian.

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