A new season so here’s my idea about the ‘Top Ten Talents’ coming through in the Jupiler League. I’ve changed the criteria so that now they must be younger than 20 and currently in the first team squads. That means I can’t include a couple of players I really like: Anderlecht playmaker-to-be Fernando Canesin and Cercle Brugge striker Igor Vetokele who are no longer teenagers. They’re in alphabetical order; nine of the 10 are Belgian. I’ve included four from Racing Genk but I could easily have included a couple more. Mario Been should be a happy man if he’s given the time to see the youth come through.
Michy Batshuayi (18, Standard Liege)
Batshuayi broke into the Standard first team last season and scored a few goals. In the process he caught the eye (allegedly) of Barcelona, Chelsea and Liverpool. He’s fast, strong and direct but caution is advised. Batshuayi appears to have upset new coach Ron Jans by not working hard enough, on and off the pitch. He didn’t figure in the opening game, although three other strikers were in the squad. He also played for the Anderlecht youth team before leaving because of his ‘attitude’. Let’s hope he sorts himself out.
Ibrahima Cissé (18, Standard Liege)
A product of the Standard academy, Cissé’s best position is said to be defensive midfield but he recently made his first team debut at full back. He looked very comfortable and he could make his mark this season. As Standard are well served in midfield, he might have to settle for a full back spot.
Jordy Croux (18, Racing Genk)
Croux is still searching for his best position but he’s already played for the Genk first team and he’s been impressive. This could be the season that sees him get some regular time in the first team.
Laurens De Bock (19, Lokeren)
De Bock is a class act and he’s already made the left back position his own at Lokeren. He’s also played for the Belgian U21 side and he’s probably the reason why the club were happy to sell Derrick Tshimanga to Genk last season.
Joren Dehond (16, Leuven)
Young winger who has already had a few minutes in the Jupiler League with Leuven and has been included in the Belgium U18 squad. He’s one to watch.
Dennis Praet (18, Anderlecht)
Praet’s an attacking midfielder who Anderlecht took from the Genk academy a couple of years ago. He’s been included in the Anderlecht first team in pre-season friendly matches but was injured in the Belgian Super Cup match with Lokeren. He could be likened to a young Enzo Scifo in his style of play. He needs a bit more muscle but he’s been given the title of the ‘next big thing’ in Belgian football.
Benito Raman (17, Gent)
Benito made his Gent debut last season, getting a few minutes and then starting one game. Now firmly ensconced in the first team squad, he’s a fast winger and is seen as a great prospect. Has played for Belgium U17 side and is one reason why Gent aren’t too worried about Yassine El Ghanassy trying to leave.
Siebe Schrijvers (16, Racing Genk)
Young striker Schrijvers had 45 minutes in a pre-season friendly and scored three goals in 45 minutes. He’s just signed a professional contract (sighs of relief in Genk) and if Praet is the ‘next big thing’, then Schrijvers is the one to follow him. He’s only small but he’s fast and is a natural goal scorer.
Hannes Van der Bruggen (19, Gent)
He broke into the Gent first team last season and he needs to consolidate his position now that several players have left. Van der Bruggen looks like a player who can cover all positions in midfield and is the first Belgian to come through the Gent youth ranks for years.
Sandy Walsh (17, Racing Genk)
Praet moved to Anderlecht from Genk but Dutch central defender Walsh moved the other way a couple of years ago. He’s been selected for the Dutch U17 side and he’s certain to make his debut this season.