It's been a remarkable 12 months for Belgian football. The continued rise of Thomas Vermaelen, Vincent Kompany and Marouane Fellaini into established Premier League performers, combined with big money transfers for prospects Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois and Alex Witsel have transformed the region into something of a talent hot spot.
As such, the hunt for the next Belgian star has intensified in recent months, and continued during last weeks Champions League matches. Who was in focus? Not Lille's exciting Eden Hazard, or Ajax powerhouse Jan Vertonghen, but little known Genk prospect Kevin De Bruyne - one of the Jupiler Pro League's brightest stars.
De Bruyne had a point prove during Tuesday's Group E clash with Chelsea, after he almost became a Blue in the summer. He was first picked up by scouts who were watching, and would go on to sign, his Genk team-mate Courtois, but a double deal broke down. The 20-year-old is still on the radar however, and showed André Villas-Boas what he's missing by playing a part in Jelle Vossen's equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw.
Whether that was enough to convince Chelsea to finally secure his services or not, it was another glimpse of De Bruyne's promising talent.
A product of the Genk Academy, he started his career at one of Belgium's oldest sports clubs, Gent, playing two seasons and picking up the basics of an attacking midfielder. Good technique, vision, awareness and a good range of passing, he has all the basics, but a lack of strength and power has prevented him from playing centrally.
De Bruyne has since switched to become a left sided play-maker, despite being right footed. It's a role he's fitted well, using intelligent movement, skill and quick feet to beat opponents in one-on-one situations. However, he's far from a conventional winger, preferring to drop the shoulder and cut inside, where he can play dangerous passes inside defenders, or accurate cross-field balls to open up the play.
So, he's skilful, intelligent and a good passer of the ball, but there is still lots of improving to do. De Bruyne is a good height at almost six foot, but lacks power and seems quite physically weak. On top of that, as a right footed player on the left, he has an over reliance on cutting inside, which leads to predictability, and is easy to defend against.
Overall, De Bruyne is a fine prospect. He has great intelligence, quick feet, good movement and an excellent, unselfish range of passing. He needs to work on his physique, cover his full back better and be braver in taking shooting chances, but with some good experience already under his belt, he be a solid acquisition, and somebody who could contribute straight away.Reuse content