Artikel: A Group of Belgian Players Is Rising in England

Een mooi artikel in de ‘New York Times’

LONDON — There is a growing Belgian flavor around England’s Premier League right now, and it isn’t the country’s fine chocolates.

On day one of the new soccer season, Marouane Fellaini, the Everton player distinguishable by his beanpole 1.94-meter, or 6-foot-41/2-inch, physique and his bush of black fuzzy hair, destroyed Manchester United. “Unplayable” was the description used by United’s veteran manager, Alex Ferguson.

Fellaini, the son of a former Moroccan goalkeeper, is the front-runner of a new batch of Belgian-born players opting to earn their fortunes in British pounds rather than euros.

We have already seen Eden Hazard, arguably the best of the new breed, take to life at Chelsea as if he had been born to be a star there. Hazard is a playmaker who likes to take a shot at the goal, and he could soon have his choice of Belgian goalkeepers to shoot down in the Premier League.

There is Simon Mignolet, currently the goalie at Sunderland.

Good as he is, Mignolet is not the best of the rising young Belgian keepers. Thibaut Courtois, only 20, joined Chelsea more than a year ago and, because the London team is served well enough by its Czech goalkeeper, Petr Cech, young Courtois has been loaned out to Atlético Madrid ever since.

Atlético, as it happens, is Chelsea’s next opponent. The Madrid team won the Europa League last season, and on Friday it faces Chelsea, the Champions League winner, in the UEFA Super Cup.

Courtois is not the only developing Belgian that Chelsea’s scouting system has identified as a future star for the team. Hazard has started brilliantly in London, and two other forwards, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, are contracted to Chelsea, but loaned to garner experience at West Bromwich and Werder Bremen respectively.

But there is virtually a complete Belgian national team growing under English ownership, starting with the goalkeepers, Courtois and Mignolet.

The central defenders are Vincent Kompany, who captains the English champion Manchester City, and Thomas Vermaelen, captain at Arsenal. The attacking fullback Jan Vertonghen has joined Tottenham Hotspur.

In midfield, Moussa Dembélé, also attack-minded, strong and purposeful, has begun the new season in thrilling form for Fulham.

And going forward, apart from Hazard and the Chelsea loanees Lukaku and De Bruyne, Everton has just purchased Kevin Mirallas to play alongside Fellaini.

You might think that Marc Wilmots, the recently appointed Belgian national team coach, would need only a one-way ticket on the Eurostar train to keep tabs on his players in England.

In fact, with the experienced defender Daniel Van Buyten employed by Bayern Munich, and others scattered around the Dutch, Portuguese and even Russian leagues, the coach cannot expect too many days on home soil in Liège.

Yet Wilmots knows that the soccer phrase “Have boots, will travel” might have been invented for Belgians. As he prepares for his first competitive matches — World Cup 2014 qualification games against Wales and Croatia in early September — he will be well aware of the value of playing in foreign leagues…

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