Football Features

The Anderlecht talent factory’s influence on the Premier League is enormous

By Squawka News

Published: 11:29, 10 April 2020 | Updated: 11:45, 11 April 2020

Anderlecht have produced a serious array of football talent over the years, with some big names being poached from their academy.

The likes of Dries Mertens, Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj were all on the books at Anderlecht but would not see first-team action, moving to Gent, Mons and Manchester United respectively.

But those who had made first-team appearances were no different, with clubs from around Europe constantly circling the Belgian side like vultures, ready to pick up on any success.

Had Anderlecht not cashed in on a number of their promising players, they might be more than just Champions League group stage cannon fodder, not reaching the knockout rounds of Europe’s premier competition since groups were added to the format.

So, with that in mind, here’s how Anderlecht could have lined up if they hadn’t sold some of their star players — not including the aforementioned academy trio.

Goalkeeper: Silvio Proto

Age: 36

Current club: Lazio

Games played for Anderlecht: 372

A loyal servant to Anderlecht, Silvio Proto spent 10 years with the Brussels club, making over 200 league appearances for the first-team and winning four Belgian First Division titles. The shot-stopper started off at Louviere, making 128 appearances for the club, before moving to the Purple and Whites in 2005.

Proto has 13 caps for Belgium, and during a loan spell with Germinal Beerschot, scored his first professional goal — a fantastically timed header into the top corner. He joined Oostende, another top-flight Belgian club, in the summer of 2016 on a free transfer and has since played for Olympiacos and Lazio, remaining second-choice goalkeeper at the latter.

Right-back: Guillaume Gillet

Age: 36

Current club: Lens

Games played for Anderlecht: 330

Guillaume Gillet was a regular for Anderlecht in his eight years at the club. He made 330 appearances and scored 62 goals during his time in Belgium, winning the domestic title on four occasions.

The right-back was occasionally deployed as a midfielder, as his attacking prowess helped Anderlecht’s forward options. He moved to French side FC Nantes in January 2016 after a successful two years at Bastia. A season at Olympiacos followed before he joined Lens in the summer of 2018, where he has permanently switched to midfield.

Centre-back: Vincent Kompany

Age: 34

Current club: Anderlecht

Games played for Anderlecht: 119

One of the finest central defenders in world football in recent years, Vincent Kompany’s transfer to Hamburg in 2006 was seen as a great bit of business by the German club. Unfortunately, the defender only managed six starts in the Bundesliga and was ruled out of the entire 2006/07 season with an Achilles injury.

In 2008, Kompany signed for Manchester City and became one of the best defenders to have played in the English game, winning four Premier League titles, four League Cups and two FA Cups. Kompany returned to Anderlecht in the summer of 2019 as player-manager, although he has since dropped the managerial responsibilities.

Centre-back: Leander Dendoncker

Age: 24

Current club: Wolves

Games played for Anderlecht: 171

A graduate of Anderlecht’s academy, Leander Dendoncker rose through to ranks to be integral at the heart of the midfield, garnering interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

After 171 first-team appearances for the Belgian side, Dendoncker was loaned to Premier League club Wolves in 2018 with a view to a permanent move the following summer. Dendoncker initially struggled for game time under Nuno Espirito Santo but has made himself a key player in 2019/20, frequently filling in at centre-back.

Centre-back: Chancel Mbemba

Age: 25

Current club: Porto

Games played for Anderlecht: 77

After watching Chancel Mbemba in 2015/16 for Newcastle United, it’s difficult to see why Anderlecht sold him for such a cheap price – the Magpies landed the central defender for around £8 million but his initial performances warranted much more than that.

Now a Porto player, aged just 25, he’s played with maturity and possesses excellent speed, strength and football intelligence. After joining the Anderlecht Academy in 2012, he went on to make 77 appearances for the first-team and scored nine goals.

Left-back: Jordan Lukaku

Age: 25

Current club: Lazio

Games played for Anderlecht: 9

The younger brother of striker Romelu Lukaku, Jordan Lukaku was another graduate of Anderlecht’s academy. However, he would make just nine first-team appearances before joining KV Oostende.

Since leaving Anderlecht, Lukaku has gone on to improve himself and was building a reputation as a flying left-back or wing-back for Lazio. However, his progress over the past two seasons has been cut short by a serious knee injury.

Central midfielder: Lucas Biglia

Age: 34

Current club: AC Milan

Games played for Anderlecht: 303

Lucas Biglia was consistently good for Anderlecht and was handed the captain’s armband in the 2011/12 season, replacing Olivier Deschacht. He went on to make over 300 appearances for the club and scored 16 goals, winning four domestic league titles.

His performances put him on the radar of a number of top-level clubs, but the midfielder ended up moving to Lazio in 2013, where he continued his strong performances. AC Milan then took him to the San Siro in the summer of 2017.

Central midfielder: Youri Tielemans

Age: 22

Current club: Leicester

Games played for Anderlecht: 185

Youri Tielemans was one of Anderlecht’s best academy products, racking up 185 appearances for the Purple and Whites.

Making his Champions League debut aged just 16, he was considered to be one of the brightest talents in world football, and the club attempted to hang on to him for as long as possible.

Monaco made their move in the summer of 2017, and although he wasn’t a huge success in France, Tielemans has since refound form with Leicester City in the Premier League.

Central midfielder: Dennis Praet

Age: 25

Current club: Leicester

Games played for Anderlecht: 182

Dennis Praet made his senior debut for Anderlecht in 2011 and went on to make 182 appearances for the club, scoring 27 goals.

He joined the Purple and Whites academy in 2010/11 after spending eight years with Gent. Another huge talent, he joined Tielemans at Leicester in 2019, although has had to fight for his game time.

Striker: Aleksandar Mitrovic

Age: 25

Current club: Fulham

Games played for Anderlecht: 90

Aleksandar Mitrovic burst onto the scene at Anderlecht after signing for the club in 2013. Aged just 19, the Serbia international scored 44 goals in 90 appearances for the club before making a move to Newcastle United prior to the 2015/16 season.

The forward is still in England with Fulham, where his goal record has improved since his days at Newcastle, although his goals were unable to keep the Cottagers in the Premier League last season.

Striker: Romelu Lukaku

Age: 26

Current club: Inter Milan

Games played for Anderlecht: 73

After scoring 33 goals in 73 games for Anderlecht, the Belgian striker moved to Chelsea in 2011 but was largely underused by the club before he left to sign for West Bromwich Albion on loan.

After a successful season, he then moved to Everton on loan the following campaign, and eventually permanently signed for the club in 2014. He scored 87 goals across all competitions for the Toffees before agreeing to join Manchester United. Although Lukaku scored 42 goals in 96 games for the Red Devils, fans were not happy with the Belgian’s overall performances, leading him to leave for Inter Milan — where he has been a huge success so far.