Three of the 10 are from Anderlecht and another three play for Standard Liege. I could have chosen more from Anderlecht as they do seem to have a flock of youngsters coming through despite losing the Musondas, Adnan Januzaj and Mathias Bossaerts to the Premier league. The players are in alphabetical order and, this year, eight of the 10 are Belgian.
Frank Acheampong (19, Anderlecht)
Acheampong was a big success for Ghana in the U20’s World Cup and has recently signed a permanent contract with Anderlecht after moving from the Thai League. He’s quick, strong and is a proven goalscorer. If Anderlecht don’t sign a direct replacement for Milan Jovanovic, Acheampong could find himself playing several first-team games this season.
Michy Batshuayi (19, Standard Liege)
Arriving at Anderlecht in 2007, the young striker was judged too hard to handle and he drifted off to Standard Liege via a spell at FC Brussels. Batshuayi faded out of the picture when Ron Jans was coach at Standard but he blossomed under Mircea Rednic. He’s seen as a player with a bright future – in fact he was in my top ten last year. Batshuayi just needs to avoid trouble as he was sent home from Belgium U21 duty for breaking squad rules. He’s quick, is a regular goalscorer and recently extended his contract at Standard.
Boli Bolingoli Mbombo (18, Club Brugge)
Unlike Jordan Lukaku, Bolingoli has been lucky enough to be related to the Chelsea striker without the handicap of having the same surname. He’s Romelu’s cousin and recently joined the Club Brugge first team squad. Equally home in midfield or on the wing, Bolingoli has made rapid progress in the last few months. He scored the winning goal in an early season win at Oostende.
Massimo Bruno (19, Anderlecht)
Bruno was just another Anderlecht hopeful a year ago when coach John Van den Brom threw him into the Champions League cauldron. He survived and became an overnight hero after ensuring Anderlecht’s progress to the pool stages – worth some €15 million. The strong-running winger became a more-or-less permanent fixture in the champions’ first team last season only having a blip just before the playoffs. Bruno’s impressive form has continued this season and he stands a chance – albeit a slight one – of making the World Cup squad, assuming Belgium do qualify.
Caenepeel is the least known of the ‘famous five’ – the talented group of attacking players in last season’s Belgium U17 squad. (The others being PSV’s Zakaria Bakkali, Chelsea’s Charly Musonda Jr, Manchester United’s Andreas Pereira and Genk’s Siebe Schrijvers). Caenepeel was reportedly the subject of two bids by Juventus but Gent held firm. This could be the season when the name of this fast and tricky winger becomes familiar to football fans in Belgium and further afield.
Ibrahim Cissé (19, Standard Liege)
Cissé was in my top ten to watch last season but failed to really break through, no surprise given the upheavals at the club. He made minor headlines when he was sent home from Belgium U21 duty, along with Batshuayi, but that was out of character. On the pitch he’s versatile and can play at full-back, in central defence or in midfield. Let’s hope Standard don’t release him without giving him a real chance.
Imoh Ezekiel (19, Standard Liege)
Ezekiel and Batshuayi were often aligned together as Standard’s twin strike force last season and it worked. Many pundits felt they were given too much responsibility too soon and that has led to Igor De Camargo returning to Standard after a Bundesliga adventure. Ezekiel is fast, confident and since joining Standard, he’s averaged a goal every two games.
Benito Raman (19, Kortrijk on loan from Gent)
I also included Raman in my list of youngsters to follow last season but he only looked good at a loan spell with doomed Beerschot. The young winger scored five in 11 games for the Antwerp club and he’s now gone on loan to Kortrijk. Raman should gain valuable experience under coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck and will hopefully fulfil his promise of a few years ago.
Siebe Schrijvers (17, Genk)
Schrijvers has already played for the Genk first team, at the age of 16, and he’s fast and technically adept. He can play anywhere across the front line and is genuinely two-footed. Schrijvers lacks body strength and he needs to impose himself more but Genk are working on both factors. He’s one of the few Belgians with big reputations not tempted abroad before the age of 16.
Youri Tielemans (16, Anderlecht)
Tielemans made his debut for Anderlecht at the age of 16 years and two months, that’s younger than both Vincent Kompany and Anthony Vanden Borre. Tielemans seems to have everything that’s necessary for a successful career at the top level: a sound temperament, creative drive, a good engine and a powerful shot. He is equally home at no’s ‘6’, ‘8’ or 10’ and by next season he should be an Anderlecht regular.