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Updated on April 24th 2023, 9:16:40 am

Top 10 Greatest Belgian Football Players of all time

In this article, take a look at the top 10 greatest Belgian football players of all time. The Belgians tend to perform well in major tournaments despite a dearth of silverware.

The Belgians tend to perform well in major tournaments despite a dearth of silverware; and these performances stretch across different eras, illustrating a collective mentality obtained through patriotism and pride rather than solely individual quality. 

Here then, are 10 Belgians who have best represented their country in football.

1. Paul Van Himst

With 30 goals in his 81 matches, no player has scored more times for  Belgium than Paul van Himst. That is just one of a number of records set in an illustrious career spanning 18 years, 14 of which saw him turn out for the Red Devils. The majority of his club career was spent with Anderlecht, where he won eight league titles and scored 233 goals in 457 appearances.

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2. Jan Ceulemans

In Belgium’s top 10 for both goals and appearances, Jan Cuelemans was

often the driving force in Belgium’s offense in his pomp; with his physicality and strong build paired with good technique making the attacker infallible at times. Ceulemans made his senior national team debut in 1977 at 20 years old, then in his third season at Belgian side Lierse. By Euro 1980 though, the forward was undroppable. Ceulemans started all 4 games as the Belgians finished runners-up, their highest Euros finish to date, with the versatile playmaker scoring 1 goal as he rotated between the wing and striker role in his first major tournament. He continued to be vital to The Red Devils in later tournaments, appearing in his first of 3 WCs in 1982. Nicknamed ‘Captain Courageous’, the forward who could play in midfield consistently illustrated his consistency and big game credentials throughout his international career, as well as an elite mentality in addition to strong leadership. Ceulemans’ last cap came in 1991 at 34 years old. He is also Club Brugge’s top scorer of all-time, with 191 league goals.

3. Jan Vertonghen

Belgium’s most capped player of all time, it feels as if Jan Vertonghen isn’t appreciated for the consistency of his service to his nation. The versatile defender made his senior international debut in June 2007, after only 3 appearances and a full season of professional football at Ajax of Holland. Clearly, Vertonghen was seen as a talented prospect. After his debut, Vertonghen made at least 6 Belgian appearances annually for a decade, with 9 or more appearances in six of the ten years. His first international tournament came in form of the 2014 WC in Brazil, where he filled in as a left-back, playing every game as Belgium reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 1986. Vertonghen even scored the winning goal in a 1-0 group stage win vs South Korea, helping to secure qualification for Belgium.

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4. Eden Hazard

Belgium’s most talented player of this century bar none. Possessing the nonchalance of a carefree child and the skill of a magician; Eden Hazard often exemplified the fun aspect of football, that aspect often forgotten in the midst of competition, tension and uncertainty. Hazard was handed his senior international debut in November 2008 at the age of 17; midway through his second season as a professional footballer for Lille of France. At the Euros hosted by France, Hazard started all 5 games as captain, providing inspiration when required as the Belgians reached their first-ever Euros QFs. The maestro only scored once though, a goal in the 4-0-win vs Hungary in the RO16. Leading via his vision and skill, Hazard continued to wear the armband going into the ’18 WC in Russia where The Red Devils produced their best-ever WC performance with a bronze. Hazard himself had his best international tournament to date, scoring 3 goals in 6 starts as Belgium’s current generation finally came of age in a major tournament. One of his goals even came vs England in the third-place playoff. Usually, on the left wing for Belgium, Hazard is a player blessed with a low centre of gravity; clever movement and sublime skill. He is unpredictable and unstoppable at his best.

5. Romelu Lukaku

Belgium’s top scorer of all time at the age of 27, and clear of second place by 27 goals, Romelu Lukaku’s achievements for Belgium may never be surpassed and yet seem only partly acknowledged despite the speed at which he’s achieved this feat. Lukaku made his senior Belgium debut in 2010 at 17 years old, during a breakthrough season with Belgian side Anderlecht which saw the then-youngster score double figures in the league. He later scored a brace that year vs Russia to open his account, but Lukaku’s prolific days for his nation took a few years to materialize. The striker only scored 5 goals in his first 26 caps initially, but 2014 was a turning point for Lukaku. He helped Belgium secure qualification for the 2014 WC with a brace in a 2-1-win vs Croatia in late 2013. He then started the first 2 games in Brazil but failed to score, leading to a benching until the KO rounds. The 2018 World Cup was Belgian’s best WC performance and Lukaku’s best tournament for Belgium as well. The instinctive frontman started every game and scored 4 goals as Belgium grabbed the bronze medal, finishing second on the top scorer’s list.

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6. Vincent Kompany

The leader of the new golden generation of Belgian football, Vincent Kompany has established himself as one of the best central defenders in the world since his move to Manchester City. The 28-year-old showed promise from an early age, being named Belgian Player of the Year and making his debut for the national team while still in his teens. He won two league titles with Anderlecht before a brief spell in the Bundesliga with Hamburg. It is at City where he has really blossomed, however, inspiring them to their first league title in 44 years and being named the Premier League's Player of the Season for 2011-12. At 28, he still has plenty of time to work his way up this list, and leading his side to a good performance in Brazil would certainly do him no harm in that respect.

7. Jef Jurion

Famous for wearing his glasses during matches, Armand 'Jef' Jurion was instrumental in putting Belgian football on the map at a time when they were still feeling their way into the game at both club and international level. The relatively new European Cup had not been kind to Jurion's Anderlecht team until the 1962-63 season, when he scored a late goal to send the mighty Real Madrid crashing out in the first round having also netted in the first-leg 3-3 draw at the Bernabeu. That memorable strike earned Jurion the nickname 'Mister Europe', but in Belgium they had long been aware of his quality. He won eight league titles and one cup during a 15- year career with Anderlecht and was also named Belgian Player of the Year on two occasions.

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8. Michel Preud'homme

Few Belgian players can claim to have been the best in the world in their position during their career, but Michel Preud'homme was certainly amongst the upper echelon of goalkeepers at his peak. In a 22-year career that saw him make almost 200 appearances for each of his three clubs, he won three league titles, three domestic cups and a Cup Winners' Cup. He featured for Belgium in the 1990 World Cup, but it was four years later that the tournament saw the best of him as he became the inaugural winner of the Yashin award, given to the best goalkeeper in the competition. That year he was also voted UEFA's Goalkeeper of the Year and IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper, having previously won two Player of the Year awards in Belgium in the space of three seasons.

9. Raymond Braine

Raymond Braine's goalscoring exploits are stuff of legend in Belgium having netted a reported 141 goals in 142 games for Beerschot VAC before becoming the first professional player in the country's history with a move to Sparta Prague. There, he scored a further 120 goals in just 106 matches, winning two league championships and the Mitropa Cup before moving back to Beerschot, where he added a further two titles to the four, he won before leaving. Internationally, his 26 goals make him the fifth- highest scorer in Belgium's history, while he also featured in the 1938 World Cup having turned down a lucrative offer for Czechoslovakian citizenship four years earlier. IFFHS went as far as to name Braine the 64th best player of the 20th century.

10. Eric Gerets

Eric Gerets was right at the heart of Belgian football's purple patch in the 1980s, carving out a successful international career that saw him retire as the third most capped player in the country's history. 'The Lion' played a key role in helping his side to the final of the 1980 European Championships before leading them to their best-ever World Cup finish six years later. He also featured in the 1982 tournament, when Belgium beat reigning world champions Argentina, and in 1990, where his side were eliminated by a late David Platt wonder goal. He enjoyed even greater success at club level, however. After 12 years with Standard Liege, during which time he won two league titles and a cup, he moved to AC Milan and MVV. It was at PSV Eindhoven where he really made his name, however, winning six league titles and three cups in seven years, as well as captaining the side to European Cup success in 1988.

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