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In Focus: Hot prospect De Ketelaere is the brightest star in Brugge
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Tom Hancock
LiveScore
Charles De Ketelaere has four goals and four assists in all competitions so far this season
Charles De Ketelaere has four goals and four assists in all competitions so far this season

Club Brugge have caught the eye in the Champions League this term by holding Paris Saint-Germain and beating RB Leipzig — and hot prospect Charles De Ketelaere is their brightest star.

The 20-year-old is being hotly tipped as Belgian football’s next big thing, drawing comparisons with Manchester City magician Kevin De Bruyne.

As Philippe Clement’s men prepare to face City tonight, we cast an eye over what makes De Ketelaere such an exciting prospect and what the future holds for the versatile attacker.

A player who oozes Brugge

Charles De Ketelaere has produced some strong numbers for Group A minnows Club Brugge
Charles De Ketelaere has produced some strong numbers for Group A minnows Club Brugge

De Ketelaere may only be in the formative years of his career but he has been with his hometown club since the age of seven and risen through their youth ranks.

He made his senior debut as an 18-year-old in September 2019 and has been a first-team regular more or less ever since.

Last month saw De Ketelaere reach 88 appearances for the Blauw-Zwart — he already has two Belgian First Division A championship medals to his name and Brugge are looking good value for a third straight title this season.

Midfielder? Forward? Neither?

In Brugge’s 2-1 win at Sint-Truiden last Saturday, De Ketelaere lined up on the left of a front three.

Yet he played as a centre forward a week earlier against Antwerp, as he did in the club’s 5-1 defeat to City, and has even been deployed at left-back in the past.

Ultimately, De Ketelaere has stood out for his technical ability in an attacking midfield role — both in terms of passing and carrying the ball — and it is that from which the understandable De Bruyne comparisons come.

Statistically speaking

Prodigious 20-year-old Charles De Ketelaere has been pivotal in Club Brugge's Champions League campaign so far
Prodigious 20-year-old Charles De Ketelaere has been pivotal in Club Brugge's Champions League campaign so far

With four goals and four assists across all competitions, De Ketelaere has been central to Brugge’s attacking play this season.

He has only had a direct role in one of his side’s four Champions League goals but it was an important assist, setting up Hans Vanaken for the equaliser as Clement’s outfit won 2-1 at RB Leipzig.

De Ketelaere has been subbed in each of Brugge’s last two Champions League matches — but no outfield player aged 20 or younger has played more minutes in the First Division A this term (1,098).

Looking ahead

Unsurprisingly, De Ketelaere is reportedly attracting interest from Europe’s elite clubs, including City, with Guardiola said to be a firm admirer.

When the Belgian international was asked about his longer-term future back in February, he said: "Honestly, I do dream of an adventure abroad. I will always make a healthy choice. Only sporting ambitions count. You always want to improve.

"There is no concrete career plan. A few foreign clubs were interested but if I say that I want to stay at Club Brugge for another three years I would be very happy with that."

Where to next?

Comparisons between Charles De Ketelaere and Kevin De Bruyne are understandable when you look at their heat maps
Comparisons between Charles De Ketelaere and Kevin De Bruyne are understandable when you look at their heat maps

Based on his current trajectory, De Ketelaere is going to have no shortage of suitors across Europe’s top five leagues next summer. 

The chances of him still being at Brugge when his contract runs out in 2024 feel slim to none.

As well as City, Liverpool and AC Milan have been touted as potential destinations when the time comes for him to leave Belgium.

West Ham and Lazio have also been mentioned and a stepping-stone move to either of those clubs could well be the most beneficial option for his continued development.

But if the opportunity to link up with De Bruyne — with who he has already formed a promising connection for the national team — were to present itself, De Ketelaere would be unlikely to resist.

Tags

Champions LeagueClub Bruges
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