Vanderhaeghe arrived late on both the national and international scenes. He played just one game for Cercle Brugge, aged 18, but didn’t play first division football again until 1994 at Eendracht Aalst. In between, he was close to death after suffering a brain tumour.
After recovering it took him a long period to regain fitness but he never stopped trying to make a career as a professional footballer. After spells at Eendracht Aalst and Excelsior Mouscron, captain at both clubs, he joined Anderlecht at the age of 30 and went on to play over 150 games for the Brussels team. Vanderhaeghe was renowned for being a team player and for never complaining.
Remarkably he left Aalst in 1997 for just 160,000 euros and as a seasoned international, he later cost Anderlecht 1.4 million euros. In his first season, in which Anderlecht won the title and had a successful run in the Champions League, beating Manchester United, Vanderhaeghe was voted runner–up to “Golden Boot” winner (Player of the Year) Jan Koller.Vanderhaeghe was part of the Belgium team’s backbone back in 2000, forming a solid midfield with Schalke’s Marc Wilmots. Back in those days, they were equally appreciative of each other. Said Vanderhaeghe, “Playing with Marc means that I can be more attack-minded than I was at Mouscron. He wins so many duels that I can sometimes forget my defensive duties.” The Mouscron midfielder added, “Marc is like me. There’s no such thing as a lost cause.”
Similarly, there was Wilmots on Vanderhaeghe after the opening victory against Sweden at Euro 2000. “We don’t need to talk for long, Yves and myself. As soon as we’ve got the situation in hand I know I can try something in attack with my eyes closed – no problem.”
Vanderhaeghe was always modest about his achievement on the pitch, knowing that his job was to win the ball for the more creative players. In his words, “I don’t mind being seen as a servant – that’s why I’m in the team. I’ve been captain at Aalst and Mouscron in the same role.”
After being introduced into the Belgian squad in 1999 by Georges Leekens, Vanderhaeghe said “So far, my only trophy is for indoor football with Aalst.” He put that right winning titles during his spell at Anderlecht.
Gent’s coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck, Wilmots and Vanderhaeghe are the three in the running for the coach of the year title – the Raymond Goethals trophy – with the winner to be announced in December.
Vanderhaeghe was number two to Vanhaezebrouck at Kortrijk for several years and replaced him when the latter moved to Gent. Vanderhaeghe then surprisingly switched to the ambitious Oostende after one season – and was widely condemned by the Kortrijk fans – as he felt it was the right move for his future prospects.
Vanderhaeghe is now the outsider of three in the running for the Raymond Goethals trophy but don’t bet against him making rapid progress in his coaching career.