Football Features

Genk’s scouting system deserves a medal for services to Premier League football

By Squawka News

Former Genk Players

Published: 16:00, 27 June 2021 | Updated: 11:10, 29 June 2021

If you’ve never heard of K.R.C. Genk, it’s about time you got to know them.

With a famous youth academy and claim to be one of Belgium’s top football clubs, the three-time winners of the Belgian First Division title have had some serious talent come through their doors.

With the academy pitch purpose-built and right next to the stadium, the system Genk have in place is world class, and when you see some of the players they’ve taken under their large wing at some point in their careers, you’ll see it’s paying off big-time.

The latest example is Sander Berge, a player watched by Napoli and Liverpool before finally ending up with one-time Premier League surprise package, Sheffield United.

In fact, his path is a well-trodden one, many who have donned a Genk jersey have found themselves playing in England’s top division as you’ll find out.

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Kevin De Bruyne

Genk period: 1999-2012
Current club: Manchester City
Record transfer: £55m (to Manchester City)

Having first joined Genk at the age of eight, De Bruyne stayed with the club for the majority of his youth and the first four senior years of his career at Genk, too. It wasn’t until 2012 that he moved to the Premier League with Chelsea after impressing in Champions League matches against the Blues. De Bruyne then spent two years with VfL Wolfsburg after being loaned to Werder Bremen.

He joined Manchester City before the 2015/16 season began and has blossomed since Pep Guardiola took charge. De Bruyne is now among the finest central midfielders in the world.

Leon Bailey

Genk period: 2015-2017
Current club: Bayer Leverkusen
Record transfer: £17m (to Bayer Leverkusen)

One of the hottest young prospects across Europe during his period at Genk a number of super clubs were linked with Leon Bailey’s signature, including Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, but he’d ultimately join Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen after registering 24 goals across 113 appearances for the Belgian side. Since moving to Germany the Jamaican winger continues to live up to his potential.

Yannick Carrasco

Genk period: 2005-2010
Current club: Atlético Madrid
Record transfer: £26.5m (to Dalian Yifang)

Another long-term Genk resident, Carrasco spent the better part of five years with the Belgian side after flitting between three previous youth teams. He progressed through the Monaco set-up, coming up from the B team in just two seasons. Carrasco joined Atletico at the beginning of the 2015/16 season and scored an equaliser against Real Madrid in the 2016 Champions League final.

Since then, he has gone on to become a major part of Diego Simeone’s attacking system. Carrasco joined Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang at the end of the 2017/18 season, before returning to Atleti initially on loan in January 2020.

Christian Benteke

Genk period: 2006-2009, 2011-12
Current club: Crystal Palace
Record transfer: £32.5m (to Liverpool)

A prolific goalscorer in past seasons, Benteke moved to Liverpool in the summer of 2015 but would only secure 1,529 minutes of football in his debut campaign with the Reds.

At Genk, Benteke played for four total seasons. One of those came upon returning to the club after a spell at Standard Liège (a club from which he originally joined Genk’s Under-17s) and Benteke also completed other loans at KV Kortrijk and then KV Mechelen. At Palace, the Belgian has scored 33 goals in 146 appearances.

Kalidou Koulibaly

Genk period: 2012-2014
Current club: Napoli
Record transfer: £6.5m (to Napoli)

Napoli are certain to make a profit on their imperious centre-back if he chooses to move on anytime soon. Kalidou Koulibaly, who has made over 200 appearances for the Neapolitan outfit, is widely considered among the best in his position and recently seen his name being associated with Premier League giants Liverpool and Manchester City. He would cost a few bob if the Napoli owner’s comments are anything to go by, mind…

Mbwana Samatta

Genk period: 2016-2020
Current club: Fenerbahçe
Record transfer: £8.5m (to Aston Villa)

A mainstay at Genk at the backend of the last decade, Mbwana Samatta earned a move to Premier League outfit Aston Villa at the start of 2020 and subsequently made league history when he became the first Tanzania-born footballer to not only play in England’s top division but score. That momentous occasion came when he netted in his debut against Bournemouth which turned out to be a consolation as Chris Wilder’s men fell to a 2-1 defeat. Failing to break into Villa’s current plans Samatta has since moved on and joined Turkish giants Fenerbahçe.

Steven Defour

Genk period: 2004-2006
Current club: KV Mechelen
Record transfer: £8m (to Burnley)

At Genk for just two years (one as a youth player and the following in the senior squad), Defour quickly made an impact, particularly during his time at Standard Liège, where he made 165 appearances in just five seasons. After moving to Burnley from Anderlecht, Defour became a key member of Sean Dyche’s squad as they sought to establish themselves as a Premier League mainstay, but he’s since returned to Belgian football representing Royal Antwerp before moving onto KV Mechelen.

Divock Origi

Genk period: 2001-2010
Current club: Liverpool
Record transfer: £10m (to Liverpool)

A player for Genk from the age of just six years old, Origi signed for Lille in 2010 and scored on his debut for the club. It wasn’t until 2014 that he secured a move to Liverpool and the Premier League. He was immediately loaned back to Lille and has experienced his fair share of highs and lows on Merseyside (far more highs than lows these days, it should be said).

Jurgen Klopp regarded Origi as an unnecessary squad member at one point, and he was loaned out for the 2017/18 season. He eventually returned and established himself as a cult hero at Anfield through certain heroic moments in their run to winning the Champions League in 2019.

Thibaut Courtois

Genk period: 1999-2011
Current club: Real Madrid
Record transfer: £35m (to Real Madrid)

Almost the longest-serving Genk players on this list, Courtois is the first-choice goalkeeper at Real Madrid and has risen through the ranks phenomenally fast. He began his career as a left-back but was converted to the goalkeeper position shortly after. Having played at senior level for four clubs in his career so far (one of those was technically a loan at Atletico Madrid), the 28-year-old already has a stacked trophy cabinet, with plenty of individual honours, too. Still, he hasn’t mended relations with Chelsea fans since his departure.

Jelle Vossen

Genk period: 2000-2015
Current club: Zulte Waregem
Record transfer: £2.5m (to Burnley)

Genk’s most loyal player on this list, Jelle Vossen spent nearly 15 years at the Belgian club and made 248 senior appearances from 2006 onwards. Part of that spell involved Vossen being loaned away to Cercle Brugge and Middlesbrough, before moving to Burnley for £2.5m in July 2015 – only to leave once more for Club Brugge just two months later. Vossen would go on to make 141 appearances and scoring 48 goals for Club Brugge. He’s now at Zulte Waregem.

Wilfred Ndidi

Genk period: 2015-2017
Current club: Leicester City
Record transfer: £15m (to Leicester City)

Wilfred Ndidi joined Genk in January 2015 and spent two years with the Belgian club before making his move to the Premier League – replacing N’Golo Kante at Leicester in January 2017. During his Belgian spell, the Nigerian featured 83 times although it was not a great time for Genk as their quest for glory continued in vain.

Since moving to England, Ndidi has made a name for himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League at the age of just 24, proving almost unbeatable at times with tackling expertise.

Sergej Milinković-Savić

Genk period: 2014-2015
Current club: Lazio
Record transfer: £16m (to Lazio)

A few summers ago Sergej Milinković-Savić was among the most coveted players in European football, but interest has since quelled down, a factor may very well be the astronomical fee Lazio were reportedly demanding.

You can understand their reasoning, since joining from Genk he’s established himself as a ball-playing midfielder par excellence, though his form has been erratic Milinković-Savić still retains that quality which can improve even the best teams.

Christian Kabasele

Genk period: 2014-2016
Current club: Watford
Record transfer: £5.8m (to Watford)

After making 81 appearances for Genk, which saw Christian Kabasele register seven goals from defence, the two-time Belgian international opted to join Watford in 2016 where he remains a regular presence in the Hornets matchday squad. The 30-year-old centre-back has now amassed over a century of appearances for the Hertfordshire-based club. It’s the first team he’s reached such a milestone at.