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Belgium has garnered the attention of the international footballing community of late, having seen the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Maroune Fellaini, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld come through. Currently ranked as the 9th best team in the world in the FIFA rankings, the Red Devils’ conveyor belt has now produced a midfielder who could go on to be one of the best in the world in the next few seasons.
Leander Dendoncker is already a well-known name amongst those who keenly follow European football, and he has already been targeted by the likes of Manchester United and AC Milan. The £30m rated 22-year old, who plies his trade for RSC Anderlecht, is a defensive midfielder by nature but is equally astute with his playmaking abilities. Let us take a look at his strengths and weaknesses.
Born in Passendale, Belgium, the youngster was initially a part of local outfit FC Passendale and then he was signed by Roeselare in 2003. Anderlecht, one of the country’s biggest clubs came knocking in 2009, and he has been with them ever since, scoring 8 goals in 89 first-team appearances, winning the Belgian Pro League with them last season.
Capable of playing at both as a centre-half and as a defensive midfielder, Dendoncker first gained attention when he led Anderlecht’s fight back from 3-0 down to tie 3-3 in a UEFA Champions League game against Arsenal in the 2014/15 season. Blessed with a great height (6’1″) and passing range, Dendoncker has bags of stamina and almost always plays in the heart of the midfield in a 4-3-3 formation.
He covers, on an average, 11 kilometres of distance during 90 minutes of football, and is an expert at winning the ball back. He is a commander on the pitch and uses his physical stature to good effect, as was shown in the manner in which he headed the ball into the back of the net against Manchester United in the quarter finals of the Europa League last season.
The Belgian league is not really the top-most tier of European football and so far, Dendoncker has done exceptionally well as a tall, fearless, marauding figure in the middle of the park. However, he is slow with his movements and that could pose a problem especially when playing in countries like England and Germany, where the football is fast and fluid. Moreover, he is not the best with his tactical understanding of the game, so he would also need someone to sit back and protect the defence if he goes on one of his typical forward runs.
There is no doubt that there are not many clinks in Dendoncker’s armour. But he should do well at any club. For the moment, however, it is important that he keeps his head still and focuses on the season that has kicked off, in order to make it impossible for the top clubs to ignore him anymore.