On Sunday night I drove to Brugge to watch Georges Leekens’ Club Brugge play Zulte Waregem. I went with the specific aim of watching four players: Thorgan Hazard and Franck Berrier of Zulte Waregem, together with Vadis Odjidja and Carlos Bacca of Club Brugge. Obviously you can’t judge a player on one performance but I thought it would be interesting.
A few days before the match, Club Brugge President Bart Verhaeghe had informed Leekens that he would be fired if they didn’t beat Zulte Waregem. He followed up that statement by dropping into the dressing room just before the game with Zulte and repeating his message to Leekens.
Presumably his players heard the same words as their performance on the day was lamentable and led to parts of the Belgian media talking of ‘sabotage’ as they wanted rid of the ex-Belgian national team coach. In the event, Zulte Waregem won with a single goal from Thorgan Hazard and went to the top of the league. Within 90 minutes of the final whistle, Leekens was fired. It was no surprise to any observers of Belgian football that ‘Long Knife’, who hasn’t reached the end of a contract since 2001, had arranged a payoff of between 2-3 million euros in the event that he was sacked.
As for the match, here’s the statistics on the four players:
Thorgan Hazard (39 touches; 23 passes, 19 successful; 3 runs/dribbles; 5 tackles, 4 successful; 3 shots, 1 on target; 2 free kicks).
Hazard is 19 and is the younger brother of Chelsea’s Eden. He also joined Chelsea in the summer and was immediately loaned out to Zulte Waregem. The teenager had hardly played at Lens in the French second division and there were doubts cast by many – me included – as to the wisdom of Chelsea signing him. Since joining Zulte, he’s been getting good reviews and his performance in this match confirmed that view.
Hazard played on the left wing for most of the match but switched to the right in the second half. He was heavily involved in Zulte’s play and seemed to be the creative force along with Berrier (planning free kicks etc.). Most of his passes were short but he hit a couple of excellent long balls. He has the ability to beat men and does not shirk defensive duties. Hazard scored the only goal of the game, converting an excellent cross with aplomb. He reminded me more of Kevin De Bruyne, rather than his more famous brother. His brother Eden does all his work in the final third and is more explosive than Thorgan; the younger brother could develop more into a traditional number 10 and he seems to have the ability – like De Bruyne – to play anywhere across the park. Note that he’s had fewer than 20 games of first team football.
Franck Berrier (41 touches; 26 passes, 20 successful; 2 runs/dribbles; 4 tackles, 2 successful; 0 shots; 6 free kicks; 2 corners).
Berrier is a French playmaker aged 28. He’s had a mixed career, moving from the French second division to Zulte Waregem in 2008; he had an excellent season in 2009-10 when he had the most assists in the league. That earned Berrier a move to Standard Liege that didn’t work out; he returned to Zulte in the summer and is now scoring (9 goals in 14 games) and creating again.
Berrier played just behind the main striker though he often drifted over to whatever side Hazard was on – they seem to have an excellent partnership. He was heavily involved in most of Zulte’s moves. Berrier’s a lovely player to watch and it’s a pity he didn’t succeed at Standard.
Vadis Odjidja (40 touches; 26 passes, 25 successful; 4 runs/dribbles; 6 tackles, 4 successful; 0 shots; 2 free kicks; 2 corners).
Vadis Odjidja is a 23 year-old midfield player. He first signed professional forms with Anderlecht but became frustrated when he didn’t get many games and moved to Hamburg – where Vincent Kompany was playing. That move didn’t work and he moved to Club Brugge in 2009. He’s played around 100 games and has two international caps. He was set to join Everton in the summer but the deal was concluded a couple of minutes after the deadline.
Vadis Odjidja could not be accused of trying to sabotage Leekens as he was just as involved in the game as Berrier and Thorgan Hazard. All his passes but one were successful but he rarely tried anything spectacular, concentrating on short passes to team-mates. Club Brugge hardly created a chance during the game but Vadis made a few runs and got some tackles in. Overall, it was not a good day to try and assess his form.
Carlos Bacca (12 touches; 2 passes, 0 successful; 2 runs/dribbles; 3 tackles, 0 successful;2 shots, both on target; 1 free kick).
Bacca is a 26 year-old Colombian striker who joined Club Brugge last season but didn’t settle in his new country. This season he’s been a different player and has scored 11 goals in 11 games; he’s been called into the Colombian squad.
Bacca seemed to take a day off in this match. He touched the ball 12 times and had two weak shots at goal. It was not his finest 90 minutes.