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World Cup 2022 Youngsters to watch: Charles de Ketalaere

The Belgian forward is ushering in a new generation of Red Devils

Name: Charles De Ketelaere

Age: 21 (at time of writing)

Position: Attacking Midfield

Place of Birth: Bruges, Belgium

National team career: 8 caps (1 goal)

Current club: Associazione Calcio Milan

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But despite world class talent the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, and Axel Witsel, Belgian players have helped shape the futures and fortunes of some of the top clubs in the European game; but have systematically failed to do the same on the international stage.

Since 2014, Belgium have never reached the final of a major tournament but did secure a third place finish in Russia four years ago.

With former stars aging by the year, the new generation of Belgian players coming through the ranks must be ready to step up as soon as this winter in Qatar, with Yari Verschaeren, Jeremy Doku – and most importantly – Charles De Ketelaere on the cusp of receiving the national team baton.

A son of Brugge who spent over twenty years with Club Brugge between coming through the youth ranks and then establishing himself in the senior setup at Jan Breydel Stadium, De Ketelaere is one of the best, if not the top, youth product to emerge from Brugge in years.

After a debut season in 2019-20, De Ketelaere cemented his place as a key figure in the Blauw-Zwart first-team the following season before making a combined 95 appearances across all competitions in two seasons, but his performances last term – alongside Dutch starlet Noah Lang – saw him bag 14 goals and 7 assists in 33 Jupiler Pro League appearances and helped the club to yet another league title; it’s third in succession and fifth in the last seven years.

His contributions last term led to a massive jump for the 21-year-old goalscoring attacking midfielfer when he signed terms with Serie A giants AC Milan, and the full Belgian international has already hit the ground running in Italy after making an impressive debut against Udinese on match day one while registering his first assist for the club two weeks later against Bologna.

His role in the team for Belgium this summer may not fully be known, however, which is not a reflection on his ability, but rather the existence of Kevin De Bruyne.

Though he is not expected to start, his qualities in creativity and his keen eye for goal despite being an attacking midfielder makes him an ideal weapon off the bench for manager Roberto Martinez this winter.

Should Belgium’s more veteran stars not produce what is required, his chance to impress on the global stage may yet come.

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Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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