Last week I was able to sit down with my Wellington Phoenix teammate Stein Huysegems to talk about the recent flurry of Belgian stars in Europe.
The Belgian born and bred centre-forward has played alongside some proven and promising players during his time in Europe including former Holland, Celtic and Feyenoord star Pierre van Hooijdonk, Swansea City pair Jonathan de Guzman and Dwight Tiendalli and ex-Real Madrid and Everton winger Royston Drenthe.
He has also seen firsthand the development of some potential Belgian stars like Christian Benteke, Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard which puts him in a very good position to pass judgement on the current state of Belgian football.
I asked Stein about a number of players from Belgium as well as his days in Holland and he was kind enough to give us some insight from an insiders’ perspective.
On Chelsea’s Kevin de Bruyne who is currently on loan at Werder Bremen
“I think he has the qualities to make it at Chelsea. He is both left and right footed, strong technically and mentally very tough.
“For him its good he now plays for Werder Bremen so he can play lots of games and develop at a higher level.”
On de Guzman and Tiendalli
“I played together with both players at Feyenoord and from de Guzman, I knew directly that he was a very good player. One of the best I have played together with in a team.
“Tiendalli always played good games in Holland. He was strong in both offence and at the back but I was a bit surprised that he is doing so well in the strong Premier League.”
On playing with van Hooijdonk and Drenthe at Feyenoord
“It was a great experience to play together with van Hooijdonk. On training when we had finishing on goal, it was unbelievable how many goals he always scored.
“Drenthe was a very young player when I was there and he had a great first year in the first team at Feyenoord.
On the rise of Aston Villa star Benteke
“In Belgium he was a good player and scored each year around 10 goals. He was strong with his head, in the aerial duels and was very fast.
“He has now gone to Aston Villa and already scored 15 goals in all the competitions this season which is pretty impressive. I think after this year he is going to make a step higher in the Premier League to a big club.”
On Chelsea’s Courtois who is starring on loan at Atletico Madrid
“Courtois really is a quality goalkeeper, he has a great reflex on the line, is very good with corners because he is so tall and with his foot distribution he is also pretty good.
“In a couple of years I think he can be the best goalkeeper in the world, maybe when Belgium goes to Brazil for the World Cup :)
On Marouane Fellaini and his future at Everton
“He has already some good years over there and scoring a lot of goals. In Belgium he was playing more as a midfielder and in Everton he is playing the most games as an attacker. That’s the big difference. I don't think a lot of people believed that he could do this (become such a top player).”
On Hazard and if he can make it at Chelsea
“He is a great player but in the beginning when he was playing for Chelsea he was always diving too easy to the ground. They don't like that in England and I think he is trying to change his game a bit. He had some difficult months but the last games he is back to his best.”
And when I asked Stein why so many Belgians are flourishing at the present time, his answer was very simple.
“I don't really know but all the players are extremely talented and that’s the major aspect I think.”
Stein Huysegems joined the Phoenix from Lierse in September 201. Prior to that he played for such clubs as Roda JC, Racing Genk, FC Twente, Feyenoord and AZ Alkmaar. He has represented Belgium on 15 occasions