Crisis at RSC Anderlecht – Part 2

    Last October we wrote about the precarious situation RSC Anderlecht was in. (check it out here)

    Some changes were made after we wrote that article.

    A new Sporting Director was brought in, Jesper Fredberg.

    He brought in a new coach, fellow Dane Brian Riemer, who was assistant coach at Bredford in the EPL.

    The January transfer window saw some activity, though it did not entirely go as planned.

    Outgoing there was the transfer of Wesley Hoedt to Watford for €2m, helping the club free up some salary budget. There was the termination of the loans of attacking options Fabio Silva and Sebastiano Esposito. And there was the transfer of probably the club’s most promising young talent, Julien Duranville, to Borussia Dortmund for €8,5m.

    Those funds were to be used to bring in some much needed reinforcements.

    One of which turned out to be Anders Dreyer, a Danish winger with a knack for scoring.

    Transfer difficulties

    The rest of the transfers to bolster the squad turned out to be difficult, to say the least. For the left back slot, Nottingham Forest’s Harry Toffolo was the primary target. After having been given the green light verbally by his club, the player came to Anderlecht and terms were agreed. However, in the final moments of the transfer window, when it was too late to consider an alternative player, Nottingham ultimately denied the transfer. Forest claimed it was because they needed Toffolo as backup while another player recovered from injury, but that was already the case when they agreed upon the transfer so why back out at the last possible minute? Was it to serve as payback for what happened in the semi final of what was then the Uefa Cup in 1984?

    Forest’s revenge?

    The chairman of Anderlecht at the time, Constant Van den Stock, had granted a loan to the Spanish referee for that match, after he found out the Spaniard was having financial troubles. Was it a reward for the fact that he had let Anderlecht proceed to the finals?

    As the Spanish ref died in 1987, his version of the facts died with him.

    Van den Stock came forward with what he had done in a 1997 confession to a Belgian newspaper. Because it had happened more than 10 years prior, Anderlecht itself was never punished by the UEFA.

    Nottingham wanted restitution however, and the club along with 15 (former) players took it to court. After almost a decade of legal battling, the club and players decided to drop the charges in 2007.

    So it is certainly not far-fetched to presume that this had something to do with Forest’s ultimate denial of Anderlecht’s desired transfer. Though one can only speculate as to the club’s real reasons, I’m sure there were plenty of Nottingham fans who were all too happy to see Anderlecht hitting the proverbial brick wall in this situation.

    The Anderlecht fans however, were left in the cold when it comes to a new left back.

    With both Silva and Esposito having left, there was however another position that needed urgent reinforcement – the striker.

    This is once again a tale that did not go as planned for Anderlecht, however in the end RSCA did come out as a winner.

    The primary target for the striker spot was the Nigerian Arokodare of French club Amiens. He came to Anderlecht, passed his medical examination, the media team was ready to present the player, when all of a sudden the player went to another Belgian club. Racing Genk had just sold their own striker Onuachu to Southampton and came in and swooped the deal right from under Anderlecht’s nose.

    Another blow, and with not much time left it was all hands on deck for Anderlecht to try and bring in a decent enough player. This player ended up to be Islam Slimani.

    There were some reservations about this transfer, some even mocked Anderlecht for bringing in a 34 year old striker who had not performed up to par for some time. But boy did he turn out to be a golden move for Anderlecht, scoring 9 goals in 16 matches across all competitions. (8 goals in the Belgian league in 10 matches!)

    So, with Dreyer and Slimani as sole incoming transfers, Anderlecht knew they had their work cut out for them to try and reach at least the top 8 in the Belgian league, as this meant they had a chance to qualify for a European Cup next season.

    Close, but no cigar

    With Slimani’s goals and a reinvigorated spirit after coach Riemer took over, Anderlecht certainly tried to do just that and kept in the race until the final matchday, but ultimately failed to reach the top 8.

    Meanwhile, the club performed admirably in the UEFA Conference League, where they managed to reach the quarter finals, after beating Spanish side Villareal. A semi final was even close, after a 2-0 home victory against Dutch side AZ. The away game however did not turn out as the club and its fans had hoped, with AZ quickly scoring 2 goals to erase the deficit. Anderlecht managed to stay in the game until the penalties, but AZ proved to be more efficient there.

    A daunting task ahead

    Now Anderlecht faces a season without European football, and a transfer window where Jesper Fredberg will have to prove his worth in bringing in the right players.

    Our view on what Anderlecht needs to do on the transfer front:

    Money is still a big issue at the club, so I would recommend selling one if not two of the biggest talents. Two names come to mind in that regard: Bart Verbruggen, the 20 year old Dutch international goalkeeper is on the radar of several of Europe’s biggest clubs after his outstanding performance for Anderlecht this season. If one of those clubs comes in with an offer that can’t be refused… Well, they should not refuse it then. Expect him to not leave for less than 15m.

    Second player, and one they will surely want to keep even more than Verbruggen, is Zeno Debast. Part of the Belgium squad at age 19, he is a player the Anderlecht fans are most proud of – one of their own, coming from the highly regarded RSCA youth academy.

    Selling Debast would not sit well with the fans, but – as in the case of Verbruggen – if a club would make an offer that can’t be refused…

    Questions enough, now answers are needed

    Speaks for itself that when these players should be sold, the club needs to bring in more than adequate replacements. Plus also the necessary reinforcements in other positions. Some questions remain also, such as will Slimani (who turns 35 in June) stay? Will Francis Amuzu, who almost left for Nice last season, stay?

    In any case, Anderlecht needs to bring in new players at these positions:

    • Striker (even if Slimani stays, a solid second option is needed)
    • Left Back (trying for Toffolo once again?)
    • Right Back (Michael Murillo proves to be too inconsistent)
    • Box-to-box midfielder (Yari Verschaeren is out until January)
    • Left Winger (even if Amuzu doesn’t leave, they don’t really have another option here)
    • Right Winger (same as on the other wing, besides Dreyer not really any options)

    These 6 players should cost (maximum) between 4-10m each, so 24-60m total. Not cheap, but quality has its price.

    If Verbruggen leaves, former number one Van Crombrugge can take his place between the posts again.

    If Debast leaves, a right-footed central defender will need to be brought in for the starting line-up.

    What options are there?

    Normally, the scouting department should already have some options lined up, perhaps even some players with contracts running out. Cheap options are always nice. But the most important thing, more than bringing in cheap options, is bringing in the right options. The right players for Anderlecht. Meaning – players that are willing to give 100% every game, players that are blessed with above average technical ability, players with the right attitude – the attitude to succeed.

    We’ll keep you posted

    The Anderlecht story is definitely an interesting one to follow, we hope you enjoy us bringing you regular updates on how they are progressing.

    Transfer tips

    As added bonus, here are some potentially interesting players for RSC Anderlecht.

    What makes it even more interesting, is that these are players with contracts running out summer 2023:

    • Michael Olunga (29, Striker, Al-Duhail SC)
    • Vladimir Coufal (30, Right Back, West Ham)
    • Jean-Philippe Krasso (25, Striker, Saint-Etienne)
    • Josh Maja (24, Striker, Bordeaux)
    • Naïm Sliti (30, Left Winger, Ettifaq FC)
    • François Kamano (26, Right Winger, Lokomotiv Moskva)

    Ball’s in your court now, RSC Anderlecht!

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