Mousa Dembélé flying the flag for Belgian success story away from home
The supposedly hard-to-compile list of famous Belgians – Eddy Merckx; the man who wrote Tintin; er, that's it – may soon have to exclude footballers if it is to preserve any degree of difficulty. All of a sudden the country has a crop of young players making a name for themselves.
Two of them are to be found at Tottenham, yet Mousa Dembélé is as mystified as his compatriot Jan Vertonghen by the current flowering of talent. "To be honest, for me it's just coincidence," he said. Indeed, the Belgians' development has often been completed elsewhere: the two Spurs men both played in Holland, while Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Everton's Kevin Mirallas were honed in France.
This afternoon Dembélé will come up against another of the crop in West Bromwich Albion's Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku, someone he knows particularly well: "We're from the same city [Antwerp] and he's the cousin of my best friend. I knew him from [age] eight or nine. When he went to Chelsea it's not so easy as a young guy, but everyone in Belgium knows what he's capable to do."
Dembélé was more experienced than Lukaku when he joined Fulham from AZ Alkmaar and took "not such a big step" in his stride. He recently criticised Spurs for lacking sufficient motivation in their FA Cup defeat at Leeds, but insists that will not be a problem at the Hawthorns. "West Brom are not far from us [in the table] and we are motivated. We know what we have to do and we want a Champions' League slot."
West Bromwich Albion v Tottenham Hotspur is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 1.30pm
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