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Life after Anderlecht

Monday 18th September 2017
Anderlecht RSC is distinct for their exceptional record of procuring good talent. Yet, the club has a poor personnel attrition rate. Players come and go like bees in pollination season. Once they've proved their buzz in Belgium they often go off to another honey (or money) making hive to play football.

Not everyone has the same relationship with Anderlecht as Olivier Deschacht. As a matter of fact, he's an anomaly in the annals of the club's transfer business. He's been playing with the senior team for a sturdy 16 years – and at 36, probably won't play elsewhere. He's seen his colleagues come and go, for better and for worse.

What is life like after Anderlecht? A quick google search of “Anderlecht selling club” will show you a vast amount of results which document the MANY times that footballers have left the club for pastures new. Yet the sad thing is that some of those players would make a huge difference for Anderlecht at this present moment. The purple-clad team is struggling. Usually so accustomed to winning, the side has only one win in their last five across all competitions. That includes their 3-0 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich, a dire game where they saw less than a third of possession throughout the whole 90 minutes.

One of the most recent players to leave Brussels is Italian forward, Stefano Okaka. He left the metropolitan area of the Belgian capital for the delights of Hertfordshire – he joined Watford F.C. His debut season was largely spent catching up with the pace of the Premier League, only making 15 appearances all season.
One of the few goals that Okaka has scored for Watford, albeit a very impressive one.

Okaka scored just three goals last campaign. He's played just one game so far this season and scored one goal. The jury is still out on Okaka's move. The former Anderlecht star was playing very good football in his one season in Belgium and finished as the club's top scorer. However, he's far from that mark at Watford.

Another player who joined the Premier League from Anderlecht last season was Steven Defour. Again, he was baptized with care into the top tier of English football. Defour made 21 appearances last season, notably playing in nine of Burnley's 11 Premier League wins. He's started all three games so far this season and is on track to become an important player for the Lancashire club. Yet, the future is still to decide whether it was wise to move away from the Belgian super club.

The case of Aleksandar Mitrović is certainly a perplexing one. Despite only finishing third in the league with Anderlecht in the 2014/15 season, the Serbian striker had finished as the golden boot winner and also helped his side claim the Belgian Super Cup. Regarded as one of the best performers that season in the league, transfer interest spiralled and he made his exit – Mitrovic joined Newcastle United. Although his time in the toon hasn't been nearly as exotic.
A key goal for Mitrovic, in the Champions League against Arsenal.

When Mitrovic joined the Toon Army in the 2015/16 season, he was brought in to replicate the 20-goal season he'd just enjoyed in Belgium. Whilst he was only 20 years of age at the time and the adjustment to the Premier League is a big step, he didn't carry himself well. His goal tally finished with nine, but more alarmingly two red cards – including one in the final game of the season, which saw the striker take a ban into the following season in the Championship. Mitrovic's time in the second tier was a bit of a non-event given he made just 25 appearances (11 starts) and mustered only four goals. Rafael Benítez continues to isolate the Serb, having only played 18 minutes as a substitute so far. This move may have been a stretch too far and Mitrovic probably should have stayed with Anderlecht a little longer.

Sacha Kljestan's situation was unusual in terms of Anderlecht's transfer business - unlike others in this article who left the club as they wanted to go elsewhere, largely with the end goal being a bigger club within a bigger league. Yet for the American, Anderlecht was the bigger club he wanted to play for. He arrived from Chivas USA in 2010 and saw the opportunity to play in the Belgian Pro League as a chance to better himself and his career. But, like the others, Kljestan left Belgium. He, however, returned to the USA and now turns out in hero status for New York Red Bulls and even captains the side. Although, up to now, Kljestan has won his only major titles in Belgium.

Another key player who left Anderlecht is Vincent Kompany. The Manchester City defender is a Brussels man through and through, starting his career at the club as a youth prospect. In his three senior years with the Belgian side, he won two titles; not a bad success rate. He eventually split for the lights of the Bundesliga and, as we all know, Kompany then became a key player at Manchester City.
Kompany was an integral part of Manchester City's early successes in the Premier League, especially that first title win in 2012. Last year he made just 11 appearances throughout the domestic league competition, largely marred by injury. Now aged 31, he's not getting any younger. The Belgian defender might have made three appearances already this year, but how long will it be until he's injured again or simply becomes too old for the speed of the Premier League? His bountiful riches in sky blue aside, how much does Kompany really have left in the tank?

The grass may have been greener on the other side of Anderlecht, but the majority of the players mentioned have simply failed to prove themselves outside of the Pro League. The only exceptions being: Kljestan plateaued there, and Kompany most certainly earnt his colours in Hamburg and Manchester. While Anderlecht's former stars might not dream of a return to Brussels, the club would certainly benefit from any of them returning - most likely the players would too, given their initial success which took them away.
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 


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