As we approach the Playoffs, here’s my idea about the ‘Top Ten Talents’ coming through in the Jupiler League. My criteria are that they must be aged 20 or less and have played in the Jupiler League, at least for a few minutes. That rules out any of Anderlecht’s Musonda brothers (no games yet) and also Standard’s Zoro Cyriac (too old for this list at 21). They’re in alphabetical order; all nationalities considered, although nine of the ten are Belgian (almost).
Michy Batshuayi (19, Standard Liege)
Batshuayi looks the real deal although caution is advised as he’s just arrived in Standard’s first team. He’s fast, strong and he’s got an eye for goal. Batshuayi has scored 7 goals in all competitions after getting a hatful in pre-season friendlies. Rumours last week that Barcelona had noticed him when they came to watch a few Anderlecht players. Chelsea and Liverpool also mentioned in dispatches. Batshuayi is awaiting full Belgian nationality.
Fernando Canesin (20, Anderlecht)
Canesin was given a chance in the Anderlecht first team at the beginning of the season due to injuries and he grabbed it with both hands. The young Brazilian is a genuine playmaker and he looked as if he had been in the first team for years. He lost his place when the ‘senior’ players returned, somewhat unluckily, but it’s certain that he will return. It will be interesting to see how he dovetails with Praet in the future.
Thomas Kaminski (19, Leuven)
Kaminski is the heir apparent to Anderlecht’s Silvio Proto. He was aged 16 when he first played in the Beerschot first team. Kaminski is currently with Leuven but he’ll be joining Anderlecht in the summer. Son of a Polish international volleyball player, he’s in the U19 squad.
Maxime Lestienne (19, Club Brugge)
Lestienne joined Club Brugge from Mouscron when the latter club was declared bankrupt. He’s played around 60 games in the first division and has played for the Belgium U21 side. An attacking midfield player, he’s currently out injured.
Anthony Limbombe (17, Genk)
Although only 17, Limbombe’s played about 30 games (mainly as a substitute) for Genk. A clever winger, he’s seen as the logical replacement for Kevin De Bruyne.
Gregory Mertens (20, Cercle Brugge)
Mertens is a solid centre half who can also play in midfield. He’s now a regular for Cercle Brugge, after joining them from Gent. Bob Peeters had spotted him when he had been in charge of the Gent youth teams. An U21 international, Mertens broke a rib and suffered a perforated lung against Anderlecht last week.
Dennis Praet (17, Anderlecht)
Praet’s an attacking midfielder who Anderlecht took from the Genk academy a couple of years ago. He has won prizes in various tournaments and has made five appearances as a substitute in the Anderlecht first team; could be likened to Enzo Scifo in his style of play. Lucas Biglia said Praet was his obvious replacement at Anderlecht. Praet, however, has pointed out that he has a more offensive style than the Argentine international.
Benito Raman (17, Gent)
Benito made his debut this season for Gent, getting a few minutes and then starting one game. A fast winger, he’s seen as a great prospect. Has played for Belgium U17 side and is one reason why Gent won’t be too worried if Yassine El Ghanassy eventually gets his transfer.
Hannes Van der Bruggen (18, Gent)
He’s broken into the Gent first team this season and it could be that he’s there to stay. 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.
Igor Vetokele (19, Cercle Brugge)
Vetokele has broken into Cercle Brugge’s team this season due to injuries. Now he’s considered to be the club’s main striker, with six goals from 19 starts. He’s got a similar style to Batshuayi, strong and quick. He’s willing to learn and with Bob Peeters as coach, he will get plenty of opportunities.