Anthony Vanden Borre: Anderlecht’s forgotten man

By | March 1, 2016

Anthony Vanden Borre and a friend - before the trip to Brazil (copyright John Chapman)

Anthony Vanden Borre and a friend – before the trip to Brazil (copyright John Chapman)

Last Monday, Anthony Vanden Borre played his first few minutes of football since August 2015. He turned out for Anderlecht U21s in front of a few fans, the players’ families and the Anderlecht coaching staff.

His current situation is not great. But then calling his Anderlecht team-mates “fags” was never going to be a great career move, regardless of his his objectives.

For six months, Vanden Borre has been ‘persona non grata’ with the club management and probably the majority of the first-team. Despite that, the fans were still chanting his name – and only his name – when Anderlecht played Charleroi a few weeks ago.

So how did it come to this?

Vanden Borre is a real Anderlecht man – a ‘ket de Bruxelles’. Joining the club aged seven, he stayed there for 12 years. He made his debut at 16 and was ranked alongside Vincent Kompany as one of the best players of his generation.

It didn’t last. After a promising start, he showed the warning signs – red cards, loss of form, erratic behaviour – that would dog his career.

In 2007 – aged 19 – he headed for Serie A and Fiorentina. As he said, “When you’re a teenager and you get a big offer from Italy, it’s hard to resist”. It was not a success and the same could be said for spells at Genoa, Portsmouth, Genk and Tavriya Simferopol (Ukraine). In six seasons after leaving Anderlecht, he played fewer than 100 games.

By 2013, Vanden Borre had hit rock bottom and, returning to Brussels, he entreated Anderlecht’s General Manager Herman Van Holsbeeck for another chance.

Vanden Borre was taken on with a salary of roughly 20,000 euros a year. Grabbing his chance, he regained his place in the Anderlecht first-team and was called up by Marc Wilmots for Belgium’s squad in the 2014 World Cup.

In the one game he played against South Korea, he looked the part, only to be injured in the final minutes. His tournament was over. On his return to Anderlecht, on a vastly increased salary, he was in and out of the team as normal service was resumed.

This season, he played just a couple of games before being dropped. When Anderlecht coach Besnik Hasi asked the team what they felt they were doing wrong, Vanden Borre suggested that the coaching staff should ask themselves the same question.

That was the end. Thrown out of the first team squad, Vanden Borre lost the plot and in an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws and Sudpresse he referred to “fags” in the dressing room, and an “everyman for himself culture”. He also made it known what he thought about Hasi.

The club had had enough and said a solution would be found in January. But it’s now March and Vanden Borre is still under contract with Anderlecht. There was a possibility he would move to Switzerland, with Sion but that deal collapsed.

They wanted him in midfield, but somewhat optimistically, Vanden Borre is still aiming for the Euros and wants to stay at full back – his position with the national squad in Brazil.

He’s since admitted that his choice of words had been bad and he had meant to say that no one in the dressing room had balls. He’s not alone in thinking that the team lacks leaders and many fans agree with him.

Van Holsbeeck once said there was a possibility of the player re-joining the first-team. More recently he’s said that he doesn’t see Vanden Borre returning to the first team squad – ever!

A decade ago, I interviewed then Anderlecht coach Franky Vercauteren and the subject of Kompany and Vanden Borre came up. He said, “They have completely different characters. I just hope they make the right decisions – they’ll have to choose between money and sporting values.”

They were both blessed with talent and they’ve remained good friends. But only one of them has made the most of their opportunities.

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