Best Belgian Players in Football History
Despite not yet having won a major international title, Belgium is an important country in the history of football. Finalists of the Euro in 1980 and twice as semi-finalists of the World Cup in 1986 and 2018, the Belgians have come close to the feat on several occasions.
The country can also count on several big clubs, such as Anderlecht, Club Bruges, or Standard de Liège. These teams have given birth to many great players and have at times shone on the European scene.
This ranking includes players from different eras. From Paul Van Himst in the 60s and 70s to Eden Hazard which is still active today, via Ceulemans or even Gerets.
Here are the 10 Best Belgian Football Players in History [2021 Updated]
Enzo Scifo is a Belgian midfielder who has visited many European clubs. A very creative player, he was a classic number 10 with a good vision of the game. Scifo was an excellent passer, but also a good dribbler and finisher, which makes him one of the best Belgians of all time.
The Italian-born player will make his debut with the Anderlecht club in 1983. He will be crowned national champion 3 times and even reach the final of the Europa League with the Belgian club. Enzo Scifo will then go through several different clubs, including Inter Milan, Monaco, and Torino. He won in particular the French championship with ASM and the Italian Cup with Torino.
Scifo has taken part in a total of 84 matches for the national team and scores 18 times. He participated in 4 World Cups, including that of 1986 where Belgium reached the semi-finals and finished 4th. The midfielder will be voted the best young player of the tournament. Enzo Scifo has also been selected several times for the Ballon d’Or, his best ranking being 6th in 1990.
Daniel Van Buyten is a legendary player for Bayern Munich and the Belgium team. From the height of his 1m97, he is a very imposing and solid central defender. In addition to his undeniable defensive qualities, Van Buyten can also be dangerous in aerial play.
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After his debut at Charleroi and Standard Liège, the central defender goes through OM and Hamburg. But it was not until 2006 and his transfer to Bayern Munich that he would start to win major titles. In 8 seasons at the Bavarian club, Van Buyten will be crowned 8 times German champion and win 4 National Cups. He will especially win the Champions League in 2013 after 2 finals lost in 2010 and 2012.
Van Buyten is part of the closed circle of Belgian players who have won the Champion’s League. The defender has been called up 83 times for the national team and has scored 10 goals in total. With one of the best records for a Belgian player, it is clear that Daniel Van Buyten is one of the best Belgian players of all time.
Éric Gerets is a Belgian international player playing at the right-back position. Very good defender, he is also known for his offensive qualities. Nicknamed the “Lion of Rekem”, from the name of his birthplace, he became a legend of Standard de Liège, then of PSV Eindhoven.
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Gerets makes his debut for Standard de Liège. He won the championship twice and the National Cup with the Belgian club. Gerets will also be a finalist in the Cup Winners’ Cup, where Liège lost to FC Barcelona. After short stints through AC Milan and Maastricht, Éric Gerets won in Eindhoven. In 7 seasons at the club, he was crowned 6 times national champion and won above all the Champions League in 1988, where he was a captain in the final.
The Lion of Rekem is also a national idol. Between 1975 and 1991, he was selected 87 times for the Belgian team. Gerets reached the final of Euro 1980 with the Red Devils but lost in the final against West Germany. Six years later, Gerets’ Belgium achieved another feat by reaching the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup. Eric Gerets, therefore, remains without a doubt one of the best Belgian players in football history.
Vincent Kompany is certainly one of the best central defenders of his generation. Iconic captain of Manchester City and the national team, he is a solid defender who is appreciated for his leadership abilities. Very good in the aerial field, Kompany is also a technical player who knows how to throw cleanly forward. He is without a doubt one of the best Belgian players of all time.
Kompany’s professional career began at RSC Anderlecht, where he spent 3 seasons and won the Belgian championship twice. After a short stint at Hamburg SV, he joined Manchester City. In the space of eleven seasons with the club, he participated in many successes including 4 Premier League titles and 2 FA Cups. Vincent Kompany will end his career with a season in his training club as a player coach.
Kompany has 86 caps and has scored 4 goals for the Red Devils. He will be called up from the age of 18 for the national team, which makes him one of the youngest Belgian players selected. Kompany has to give up participating in Euro 2016 because of an injury, but he is present 2 years later. During the 2018 World Cup, he reached the semi-finals of the competition with Belgium. With 3rd place, it is Belgium’s best performance in the World Cup.
Jan Ceulemans is a legendary Belgian striker, player of FC Bruges and the Red Devils. Very physical and enduring, he is nicknamed “Sterke Jan” (Jan the strong) by the supporters. He is a natural leader and a player with a strong character, which leads him to wear the captains’ armband on the various teams where he plays. He is certainly one of the best Belgian players in football history.
Ceulemans began his career at Lierse SK in Belgium. He spent 4 seasons there without winning a title before joining FC Bruges. In 14 seasons at the club, he won many titles and successes. We can notably mention 3 Belgian championship titles and 2 National Cups. Jan Ceulemans has scored a total of 240 goals in 501 games for Club Brugge.
With the national team, Ceulemans is the second most capped Belgian player in history. He has been selected 96 times and scored 23 goals for the Red Devils. The striker is also part of the team that reached the Euro final in 1980 and the World Cup semi-finals in 1986. In total, he will have participated in 2 European Championships and 3 Cups. World in his career.
Jean-Marie Pfaff is a Belgian international who is one of the best goalkeepers of the 80s. As extravagant as he is unpredictable, he nevertheless knows how to be serious and focused when needed. He is a goalkeeper with good reflexes and good relaxation, capable of impressive saves.
His career began with 9 seasons at Belgian club KSK Beveren. Pfaff notably won the 1978 Belgian Cup, then the championship a year later before joining Bayern Munich, one of the best European clubs in history . He will succeed in fittingly succeeding legendary Bayern goalkeeper Sepp Maier. Jean-Marie Pfaff won 3 German championship titles, as well as 2 national cups with the Bavarian ogre. He even reached the final of the Champions League with Bayern but lost to FC Porto.
Like Gerets and Ceulemans, Pfaff is part of players who reached the final of Euro 1980, then the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup. He has 64 caps with the Belgian team, and many legendary saves. . Jean-Marie Pfaff also won the first trophy for the best football goalkeeper of the year in 1987. This makes him one of the best Belgian players of all time.
Kevin De Bruyne is a Belgian midfielder who still works and plays at Manchester City. A very complete midfielder, he can play in several positions, whether in the center or on the wings. With a good vision of the game and a good passing game, De Bruyne also has an excellent ball strike, which makes him dangerous in any situation.
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De Bruyne made his debut with KRC Genk, where he stayed for 4 seasons and won a Belgian league title. After passing through Werder Bremen, Chelsea and Wolfsburg, he finally joined Manchester City. With the English club, he won many titles, including twice the Premier League, an FA Cup, and 4 English League Cup. In England, he was even the best assists in the Premier League for 2 years in a row.
In the national team, Kevin De Bruyne also demonstrated all his talent. He has already been called 76 times and scored 19 goals for Belgium. De Bruyne was also one of the major players on Belgium’s beautiful course at the 2018 World Cup, with one elimination in the semi-finals. He is already one of the best Belgians in history today, but could still climb in the rankings depending on the end of his career.
Paul Van Himst is a Belgian attacking midfielder and a great legend of RSC Anderlecht. A great dribbler, he could pass almost any defense. But he also had a great ability to score goals, which made him unpredictable. Without a doubt, Paul Van Himst is one of the best Belgian players of all time.
From the age of 9, he joined the Anderlecht training center, a club where he spent almost his entire career. In the space of 16 seasons at the club, he was crowned 8 times Belgian champion and 4 times won the national cup. He participates several times in the Champions League and will even be the top scorer of the competition in 1967. Despite this, he does not manage to bring his team to the top of Europe.
With 30 goals in 81 caps, Van Himst is also one of the greatest players to have worn the Belgian team jersey. He participated in the 1970 World Cup and Euro 1972 where Belgium reached the semi-finals but lost to West Germany. Paul Van Himst will also be voted best Belgian player of the century in 1995 and 5th at the Ballon d’Or in 1964 and 4th in 1965.
Michel Preud’homme is one of the best Belgian goalkeepers in history with Jean-Marie Pfaff. His reflex stops and his relaxation have made him one of the key elements of the different teams he has been to. With more than 650 matches in the Belgian and Portuguese first division, he largely deserves his place among the best Belgian players of all time.
The young Belgian goalkeeper made his debut at Standard de Liège and quickly established himself there at the age of 18. Michel Preud’homme won the championship twice and the National Cup once, before leaving for KV Malines after a corruption case. With his new club, he won again the championship and the cup, but especially the Cup of Cups in 1988 against Ajax Amsterdam. Prudhomme will end his career with 5 seasons at SL Benfica and a Portuguese Cup won.
Michel Preud’homme also had a good career in selection. After reaching the round of 16 at the 1990 World Cup, he shines again 4 years later in the United States. Preud’homme was elected best goalkeeper in the competition, then also best goalkeeper of the year 1994. He has selected a total of 58 times with the Red Devils.
Eden Hazard is a Belgian international player, Chelsea legend and now playing for Real Madrid. Most often positioned on the left-wing, he is an extremely fast and agile player, able to pass any defender thanks to his dribbling. Hazard is good from 2 feet, which makes him a formidable finisher, in addition to being an excellent passer.
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His career began in Lille in France, a club in which he would stay for 5 seasons. He won the championship in 2011, then had an extraordinary last season at LOSC with 20 goals and 15 assists in Ligue 1 before heading to Chelsea. In his new club, Hazard very quickly becomes a key player. It allows his team to win the Premier League twice, an FA Cup and the Europa League twice. Since 2019, the Belgian winger has been a Real Madrid player and already has a La Liga to his name.
Hazard is also already a legend in the national team. With 32 goals in 105 games, he is the second best scorer and the third most capped player of the Belgian team. He took part in the 2014 World Cup, then in Euro 2016, and reached the quarter-finals in both competitions. But it is during the 2018 World Cup that he shines the most. Despite a defeat in the semi-final and a 3rd place, the Belgian will be elected 2nd best player of the tournament. With such performances, Eden Hazard can claim the title of best Belgian player in history.