Belgium, despite not yet clinching a major international title, has a rich history in the world of football. The Belgians made it to the finals of the Euro in 1980 and secured semi-final positions in the World Cup in 1986 and 2018. In this article, we will look at the best Belgian Football players representing their small country of Belgium.
Best Belgian Football Players of All Time
Belgium, a relatively small European nation, has consistently been a football powerhouse on the continent. The Belgian national team has consistently performed well in major tournaments, emphasizing a collective mentality rooted in patriotism and pride, rather than relying solely on individual brilliance. Here are the top 10 Belgian footballers who have best represented their country:
1) Paul Van Himst
With an impressive record of 30 goals in 81 matches, Paul Van Himst stands as Belgium’s all-time top scorer. His illustrious 18-year career, with 14 of those years dedicated to the Red Devils, is marked by numerous records and achievements. The majority of his club career was spent at Anderlecht, where he clinched eight league titles and netted an astounding 233 goals in 457 appearances.
2) Jan Ceulemans
Jan Ceulemans, a top-10 scorer and appearance holder in Belgian football, was the driving force in Belgium’s offense during his prime. His physicality, robust build, and refined technique made him an unstoppable force. He debuted for the senior national team in 1977 at just 20 years old, while he was in his third season with Lierse.
By Euro 1980, he was indispensable to the team, helping Belgium secure a runner-up position. Ceulemans, nicknamed ‘Captain Courageous,’ displayed incredible consistency, big-game prowess, and strong leadership qualities throughout his international career. He is also Club Brugge’s all-time top scorer with 191 league goals.
3) Jan Vertonghen
Jan Vertonghen, Belgium’s most capped player, often doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves for his consistent contributions. He made his senior international debut in June 2007 after just three appearances and one professional season with Ajax in the Netherlands. Vertonghen continued to be a regular for Belgium, making at least six appearances annually for a decade, with nine or more appearances in six of those years.
His first major international tournament was the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he played as a left-back, helping Belgium reach the quarter-finals. Vertonghen even scored the crucial goal in a group-stage win against South Korea.
4) Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard, arguably Belgium’s most gifted player of this century, embodies the joy of football with his carefree style and extraordinary skills. He made his senior international debut in November 2008 at the tender age of 17 while playing for Lille in France. Hazard served as the captain during the Euro competition hosted by France, leading Belgium to their first-ever Euro quarter-finals.
Hazard’s vision and skill were on full display as he continued to wear the armband in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where Belgium achieved their best-ever World Cup performance, securing the bronze medal. Hazard, typically positioned on the left wing, is known for his low center of gravity, agile movements, and sublime skills.
5) Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku, at just 27 years old, is Belgium’s all-time top scorer, surpassing the second-place player by a significant margin. Lukaku made his senior debut for Belgium in 2010 at the age of 17, during a breakthrough season with Anderlecht, where he scored double figures in the league.
Although he initially struggled to find the net, 2014 marked a turning point for Lukaku as he helped Belgium qualify for the 2014 World Cup. In the 2018 World Cup, Lukaku had his best tournament, scoring four goals as Belgium claimed the bronze medal.
6) Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany played a pivotal role in leading Belgian football’s golden generation. He established himself as one of the world’s best central defenders after moving to Manchester City. Kompany’s promise was evident from an early age, earning the title of Belgian Player of the Year and making his national team debut while still in his teens.
He won two league titles with Anderlecht and then shone at Manchester City, inspiring their first league title in 44 years. Kompany, a central figure in Belgian football, had a bright future, and his leadership on the field continued to make a significant impact.
7) Jef Jurion
Jef Jurion, famous for wearing glasses during matches, played a crucial role in putting Belgian football on the map. His memorable strike against Real Madrid in the 1962-63 season earned him the nickname ‘Mister Europe.’ Jurion secured eight league titles and one cup during his 15-year career with Anderlecht, further solidifying his reputation in Belgian football.
8) Michel Preud’homme
Michel Preud’homme, one of Belgium’s greatest goalkeepers, had a remarkable career. His 22-year journey included nearly 200 appearances for each of his three clubs, three league titles, three domestic cups, and a Cup Winners’ Cup.
In the 1990 World Cup, he displayed his prowess, winning the Yashin award for the best goalkeeper in the competition. Preud’homme’s remarkable career also saw him named UEFA’s Goalkeeper of the Year and IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper.
9) Raymond Braine
Raymond Braine’s legendary goalscoring abilities in Belgium earned him a move to Sparta Prague, making him the country’s first professional player. He scored 26 goals for the national team, becoming the fifth-highest scorer in Belgium’s history. Braine also featured in the 1938 World Cup and was recognized as one of the best players of the 20th century by IFFHS.
10) Eric Gerets
Eric Gerets played a significant role in Belgium’s football success in the 1980s. He led the team to the final of the 1980 European Championships and achieved their best-ever World Cup finish six years later. With a successful club career, including a spell at PSV Eindhoven, where he won six league titles and three cups, Gerets was a key figure in Belgian football history.
These top 10 Belgian football players have not only represented their country with distinction but have also left an indelible mark on the sport. Their contributions and achievements continue to inspire generations of football enthusiasts in Belgium and beyond.
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