Player Profile: Charles De Ketelaere

Adam Bloszko profiles one of the brightest young talents in Belgian football, highlighting exactly why he’s being compared to Kevin De Bruyne so early into his career.

De Ketelaere has become an established prospect in European football, boasting a 100% start rate for Club Brugge this season.(Photo by Andrey Lukatsky/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

The number 10 role is one which often houses the creative genius of a team – we’ve seen the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Mesut Özil and many others dazzle spectators across some of the biggest and most lucrative leagues in the world, with their fancy footwork and creative influence.

Of all attacking midfielders in world football, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne is arguably the current frontrunner for being such a consistent creative force for one of the most dominant outfits in the Premier League. De Bruyne serves as the driving force behind City’s forward line, helping bring Pep Guardiola’s men forward with his ball-carrying runs and staggering range of passing striking fear into any defence he plays against.

But aside from those currently at the top of their game, what about those still to break out? One name that catches the tongue in a twist (literally) is Charles De Ketelaere, a former tennis prodigy, and current upcoming Belgian attacking midfielder who has exceeded scouts’ expectations.

While comparisons between De Ketelaere and De Bruyne have already been made, it’s a bit of a rarity to have two players be so similar. The 20-year-old has already matured beyond his years, rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite in the Champions League this season, in a Club Brugge side that’s yet to lose in their group!

Brugge is De Ketelaere’s boyhood club, with the midfielder having joined as a child before rising through the ranks to the senior team through the youth, under-17 and under-21 squads in the Brugge set-up.

Taking a look at his performances this season, De Ketelaere has primarily been used as more of a centre forward by manager Philippe Clement. He’s started in every competitive fixture for Brugge so far this season, contributing four goals and two assists in 10 Jupiler Pro League matches – averaging 223 minutes per goal, which is something he can definitely build on in the future.

A 100% starting rate for one of the best teams in Belgium is one highlight for bigger sides around the world, as such a young player must have the correct attitude in training to be able to be integrated into plans like this.

Although mainly having mainly been deployed as a centre forward, he can also play his natural attacking midfield position, while also being able to provide emergency cover on the left wing. He was even spotted playing left-back once!

Currently valued at £14.4 million according to Transfermarkt, it is an affordable price tag for any Premier League side – but what will Brugge’s asking price be after his sublime performances on both training ground and pitch?

On November 11th 2020, De Ketelaere was handed his senior national team debut for Belgium by head coach Roberto Martinez, at the raw age of 19! This is a big sign of things to come as his talent was identified rather quickly.

Looking into this players’ skill set, off the ball movement is a massive part of how he plays – we’ve realised that work rate off the ball is quite rare nowadays, and this boy brings that to a team. Vision and awareness are also big components of his footballing CV, being able to provide assists and make creative passes to open up defences. 

De Ketelaere’s physical qualities also provide an advantage. He stands tall at 6’1, allowing him to prance across the pitch with long strides and make up ground, with or without the ball, with ease.

Players like De Ketelaere are exactly who teams such as Liverpool, Manchester City and other top sides are looking for – someone who can operate the engine room and work hard, even without the ball at their feet, while also being able to influence their side’s progression and contribute effectively to their attacking play. De Ketelaere ticks all of those boxes, so don’t be surprised if you see the Belgian making a big move in the next few years.

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