Junior | 29/09/2021

UEFA Youth League first leg

de Bruyne, Courtois, Carrasco – Genk’s talent treasure-trove

Many of European football’s household names have made their way through Genk at one point or another, thanks to their scouting network or their youth academy. The list is long, and the current crop of youngsters will be hoping to add their names to those who have worked their way to compete with the European elite.

Yannick Carrasco, Dennis Praet, Christian Benteke, Thibaut Courtois, Divock Origi, Timothy Castagne, Koen Casteels, Leandro Trossard and Kevin de Bruyne. That is not just a list of Belgium internationals, instead a list of players who have made their way through the Genk youth academy in recent years. Since rebuilding their academy in 2003 and rejigging their youth policy, Belgium and Genk have been at the peak of producing some of the world’s best players.

The Genk side that won the title in 2010-11 contained Thibaut Courtois and Kevin de Bruyne at the age of just 18 and 19. At that point, it was clear that both would go on to enjoy impressive careers, but it was another confirmation of the solid work that Genk had been putting in over the course of a decade. 

But it is not just the academy that has been working at such a high level. Leon Bailey, Kalidou Koulibaly, Wilfred Ndidi, Sergej Milinković-Savić, Ruslan Malinovskyi, Joakim Maehle and Sander Berge all made the jump to top tier European leagues from Genk and established themselves as important players as well. Overall, the Belgian club’s ability to sniff out top talent across the country, continent and further afield have shown the work at the club to go past just de Bruyne and Courtois.

The current squad also contains plenty of exciting, young players. Genk have the second-youngest team in the league, and John van den Brom’s team are without a player over the age of 29. One of the most recognisable names in that squad is Maarten Vandevoordt. The 19-year-old is the youngest goalkeeper to feature in the UEFA Champions League, at the age of 17 years and 287 days. 

While Vandevoordt won’t be part of the team on Wednesday, Luca Oyen will be. Oyen is a midfield talent that has attracted many suitors across Europe. The 18-year-old, who was born in Nottingham, has already made 23 first-team appearances for Genk. Kelvin John is also one to watch. The young forward is already a full international for Tanzania.

Two exciting teams with plenty of talent that should provide plenty of entertainment over the coming 180 minutes of football.

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Total table
8Eintracht Frankfurt28
91. FC Köln28
101. FSV Mainz 0527