Anderlecht are a club that are synonymous with youth development. The likes of Romelu Lukaku and Vincent Kompany in particular have graced the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium before leaving to continue their career development in the more lucrative Premier League.
Unfortunately for Anderlecht and for domestic Belgian football in general the economic realities of football dictate that their most talented young players will always be identified and picked up by clubs from the bigger leagues around Europe. You could argue that this trend is beneficial to the development of young Belgian players with a constant stream of young players required to restock the first team squad when a player is sold.
This trend makes it all the more remarkable that one Youri Tielemans is still plying his trade with Anderlecht. Having made his debut as a 16 year old the young midfielder almost immediately began attracting the interest of scouts from across the continent. He is a modern midfielder in that he is difficult to pin down to a specific role equally comfortable in the defensive and attacking phase.
Now in his age 19 season and with well over 100 senior appearances Tielemans has transitioned from promising youngster to established first team player with two international caps to his name.
The list of clubs that are tracking the progress of the young Belgian international seems to be growing by the week. He is now constantly linked to a move to a bigger side with the likes of Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund in particular seeming to show real interest.
The sad truth for Anderlecht fans is that Tielemans will have to move on soon in order to continue his growth with the domestic game no longer providing the challenge that a young player needs. The only question will be whether he will choose the English premier league or the German Bundesliga to continue his career.
His player ID would suggest that he would be ideally suited to life in the English game where his playmaking skills would be a welcome to almost any top six side.
What kind of player will prospective buyers be getting?
Strong in the defensive phase
One of the most underrated aspects of Tielemans game is his ability to contribute in the defensive phase of the match. As a central midfielder he is comfortable whether asked to play in a pressing system or as part of a deeper defensive block. Tielemans is tactically intelligent in his defensive play and rarely gets caught out of position.
This clip perfectly encapsulates the abilities with Tielemans in the defensive phase. As the opposition try to play through the centre of the field we see the young midfielder time his interception perfectly as he steps in front of the opposition player and immediately plays the ball forward.
The move however does not end there as Tielemans then moves forward taking possession of the ball again and then driving at the heart of the opposition defence.
Here we see Tielemans trailing the pace of play. As the opposition move in to the final third and threaten the Anderlecht box we see the young midfielder recover his position and again time his challenge perfectly to win the ball and stay on his feet.
Pace, anticipation and timing are three essential elements that a midfielder needs to be effective in the defensive phase today. For a player of only nineteen years old Tielemans is advanced in his defensive abilities but the key to his profile is his willingness to move straight in to the attacking transition when he wins the ball back.
Ability to switch play
As well as being impressive in the defensive phase of play Youri Tielemans is also excellent in possession of the ball. He displays a plus range of passing with the capacity to shift the ball through tight spaces and to play more direct passes in to space along the edges of the field.
Tielemans displays footballing intelligence in his knowledge of space on the field and how to access it at any given time.
It remains to be seen how Tielemans will react to the pace of the game in a new surrounding should he move to a bigger team. The Premier League in particular would provide a physical challenge that Tielemans would have to adapt to. At the moment in the Belgian league Tielemans is a level above most competition and he is capable of dictating the tempo of matches on his own.
As the ball is loose in the centre of the pitch we see Tielemans take possession of the ball just inside the opposition half.
The impressive thing is the pause that we see as Tielemans scans the field and then immediately diagnoses the weak point of the opposition defensive structure, perhaps equally impressive is the quality of the pass across the field in to space behind the opposition full back.
Every part of the movement from the control to the scan to the pass shows the class and ability of the young midfielder.
Again here we see Tielemans take possession of the ball in the centre of the field. Whilst there is little pressure put on the ball in the first instance we still see that Tielemans is constantly alert scanning the field and looking for an angle to play forward in to.
Once again we see the speed with which Tielemans acts when he identifies the correct pass. Insantly he shifts the ball and hits a diagonal pass in to the player in space.
Ability to strike from distance
Perhaps the one area of the game in which Tielemans needed to improve was his finishing. As a player who is as active in the attacking phase as he is in the defensive phase and as young player who is the undoubted star of his team he was not initially scoring as many goals as he should have.
This season has seen Tielemans add goals to his all round game showing an ability to finish from inside the penalty area as well as from outside with some of his goals so far this season being genuine contenders for goal of the season.
Here Tielemans receives the ball in the first instance with his back to goal and a defender at his back. He easily turns the defender and then shows excellent acceleration to move away from the defender in to the centre of the field.
Before he can be closed down again he shoots with his left foot arrowing the ball in to the top corner of the net with the goalkeeper not even moving.
This time we see Tielemans moving forwards to take possession of the ball coming in to space from a deeper position.
Once again the opposition are slow to close down Tielemans as he moves forward towards the opposition box. This time he strikes the ball with his right foot as opposed to his left in the last example. Once again though the end result is the same as Tielemans strikes the ball in to the top corner.
There is no doubt that Youri Tielemans is ready to take the next step in his career. Having stayed at Anderlecht and continued his footballing education he has become a more well rounded midfielder. With the ability to control a match from the centre of the pitch to and contribute to the defensive and attacking phases of the game the side that eventually signs Tielemans will be getting the cornerstone of their side for potentially the next decade.
He has already shown maturity in not demanding a move abroad before now and now he will have to show the same level of maturity in choosing the destination