The Wilmots era and beyond

By | July 12, 2016

Marc Wilmots facing the press in Bordeaux. (copyright John Chapman)

Marc Wilmots facing the press in Bordeaux. (copyright John Chapman)

In the week that followed Belgium’s EURO elimination by Wales, there was much discussion about Marc Wilmots’ position. He’s still in charge at the moment but this week will be important in regard to his future. The ‘strong man’ in Belgian football these days is Bart Verhaeghe, President of Club Brugge and First Vice President of the Belgian Football Association. Verhaeghe will have the final word on Wilmot’s replacement but he’s keeping quiet.

The Belgian media’s view on Wilmots

When I was in Toulouse, I took the opportunity to chat to two of the country’s leading football writers: Het Nieuwsblad’s Ludo Vandewalle and La Dernière Heure’s Benoit Delhauteur. One of the topics we touched on was Marc Wilmots. These discussions took place before the ‘Last 16’ game with Hungary but events since have given these remarks an extra piquancy.

Question: How do you rate the job Marc Wilmots had done?

LV: His tactics have often been criticised and it’s true that he doesn’t appear to be a strong tactician. Wilmots tends to make decisions based on his gut feelings. However, I do have some sympathy for Wilmots as it must be hard to coach a player like Eden Hazard who is young and extremely talented. And remember that Jose Mourhino had a problem with Hazard, which tells you something. On the positive side, he has formed a tight group and there have not been complaints when players have been dropped, from Marouane Fellaini for example.

BD: For two years, Wilmots was the perfect man for the job and he succeeded in taking the team to the quarter finals in Brazil. Since then, he’s struggled to improve the team’s performances. The team never seems to try anything new; free-kicks and corners are always the same. Looking back, the period 2014-16 was time wasted. Positively, there are no cliques based along language lines now, and that’s thanks to Wilmots.

Question: How are his relationships with the players?

LV: This group doesn’t want too much coaching. They like to relax with the national team after spending a season in the pressure-cooker atmosphere in some of the major leagues. Wilmots may be smart in realising that this is the case. But he listens too much to some of the senior players and this causes problems.

BD: The top players, like Kevin De Bruyne, Hazard and Yannick Carrasco, have too much freedom on the field and seem to improvise. For example, Hazard often takes over the number ‘10’ position and De Bruyne has to move to find space and justifiably gets upset. It’s unlikely that this would happen in other major international teams.

Question: Any thoughts on the next coach?

LV: Gent’s Hein Vanhaezebrouck has a solid grasp of tactics and would be a good fit in the job but he’s never played international football and that might make things difficult with this group. Michel Preud’homme would not be welcomed either as he lives football 24/7and these players would not appreciate that.

Vincent Kompany - badly missed by Wilmots in France (copyright - John Chapman)

Vincent Kompany – badly missed by Wilmots in France (copyright – John Chapman)

BD: The team needs something different. Preud’homme would be excellent; he’d have a well-defined strategy with more tactical options. An Italian coach would also be good as there is no other Belgian who could be considered. But the Belgian Football Association needs to find the money if they decide to look outside of Belgium.

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Preud’homme recently agreed to stay on at Club Brugge, after first saying he was considering leaving after winning the title He will assume a more managerial role next season with a hands-on first-team coach working for him. This has led to some observers saying that he could combine the job with that of national team coach for 12 months as there will only be seven matches, two of which will be friendlies. The toughest match looks likely to be the home game with Greece in March.

It’s been reported that the Belgian FA can only afford a salary of 1.2 million euros p/a, the amount paid to Wilmots. This would rule out going for a big name such as, say, Laurent Blanc.
The CEO of the Belgian FA, Gérard Linard, an administrative position, has said that the 1 million euro pay-out that Wilmots would receive in the event that he would be sacked is “a problem”. Wilmots is unlikely to step-down and is saying nothing regarding his position.

Ignoring such financial issues, another name being mentioned is Louis van Gaal. This would be a coup for Verhaeghe as it would avoid him having to remove the coach from his own club but doubtless van Gaal would have to accept to work for a much-reduced salary.

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