Belgian Pro League: Team of the 2023/2024 season so far

With 2023 coming to an end, what better way to look back on another year of Belgian football than to put together a team of the first half of the 2023/2024 season.

Goalkeeper; Warleson (Cercle Brugge)

Not many would have expected Warleson to come out on top when it comes to goalkeepers in the Belgian Pro League so far this season. The 27-year-old Brazilian has had to bide his time to become the sides number one. Yet, so far this season he sits joint top of the clean sheets charts with the likes of Jean Butez and Maarten Vandervoordt on eight. He edges both when it comes to save percentage, sitting second in the league behind Anderlecht’s Kasper Schmeichel on 75.8%. Yet he is more active than both Butez and Vandervoordt during matches, averaging 3.5 saves per 90. He has also managed more saves (69) than Butez (49) and Vandervoordt (56).

Right-back: Daniel Munoz (Genk)

Five goals from right-back is pretty remarkable, but for Daniel Munoz, this is becoming a habit now. Last season he grabbed eight goals and five assists in 36 matches. While the Colombian is a naturally attacking full-back, he has also been part of one of the best defences in the league. The side have only conceded 20 goals in 20 games so far. It is still a surprise that there are not more sides within Europe knocking on Genk’s door to sign Munoz.

Central defender: Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge)

It would be a big mistake to ignore Club Brugge when it comes to defenders. While their forward line has been greatly praised, the defence has come under scrutiny this season. However, they have conceded just 17 goals in 20 games and 30-year-old Belgian Brandon Mechele has been at the heart of that, playing in every single game. Mechele is closing in on a remarkable achievement of 300 appearances for the side, something he will certainly achieve by the end of this season.

Central defender: Christian Burgess (Union St Gilloise)

Former Portsmouth favourite Christian Burgess has quickly become a marmite player this season. Loved when he is on your side but despised when you come up against him. Like Mechele, he is the leader in the Union defence that has conceded just 20 goals this season and is building a commanding lead at the top of the table. The 32-year-old is a fan favourite at Union because of his never say die attitude and ability to make crucial blocks that win points on their own. Could this finally be the season, after two near misses, that Burgess and co lift the Pro League title?

Left-back: Eric Bocat (Sint-Truiden)

Eric Bocat is an unsung hero of the Pro League. He is consistent yet rarely receives much praise for his performances. The 24-year-old is one of the first names on the team sheets at Sint-Truiden and helps the side tick. He is a willing runner, operating as a left midfielder but constantly having to slot in as a left-back before pushing forward as well. Working hard at both ends of the pitch, Bocat deserves plenty more praise for his performances for a very entertaining Canaries side so far this season.

Right-midfield: Joseph Paintsil (Genk)

AFCON bound Joseph Paintsil has already put in a strong season so far. The winger, who was linked to Leeds United and Southampton in the summer, has scored six goals and provided four assists in the league so far this season. He still has some ways to go to match the 17 goals and 11 assists he managed last time out, but he leads Genk in both categories so far this season. AFCON may cost him a few games in the league, but it also provides an excellent platform for him to show scouts what he can do at top international level for Ghana. An honourable mention must also go out to Anderlecht’s Anders Dreyer.

Central-midfield: Theo Leoni (Anderlecht)

Anderlecht’s best player so far this season has, for many, been Theo Leoni. The 23-year-old academy product has instantly become a fan favourite for the passion he shows for the club on the pitch. Add to that his three goals and seven assists, he has quickly become the most important midfielder in a squad with the likes of Mats Rits and Thomas Delaney. Leoni has had to wait longer than most who come from the Anderlecht academy for their first team chance, but he is clearly a late bloomer by their standards and deserves his place in this XI.

Central midfield: Cameron Puertas (Union St Gilloise)

Just ahead of Leoni in the assist charts is Union St Gilloise’s star midfielder Cameron Puertas. He has slotted into the enormous shoes left by their talisman of years passed in Teddy Tuma, but he looked more than ready to take up the mantle. 10 assists and four goals in the league so far, Puertas will be a name on many a sides transfer targets in the summer of 2024. At the age of just 25, the Swiss midfielder still has more to offer. Don’t expect Union to let him go cheaply.

Left-midfield: Aboubakary Koita (Sint-Truiden)

Slightly shoehorning the Mauritanian international in to his old role, given that he has played more advanced this season, but Aboubakary Koita deserves a place in this team regardless. The 25-year-old is having his best season ever, with 11 goals in 20 games. Thorsten Fink has given him free reign to express his attacking talents and he is flourishing. Bare in mind, the winger hadn’t scored a goal at all during the 2022/2023 season. Another player bound for AFCON who will have a chance to showcase his talents. How Sint-Truiden deal with his loss could have a major impact on whether or not they can continue their fine season so far.

Striker: Kevin Denkey (Cercle Brugge)

Kevin Denkey has been outstanding this season. The Togolese international has scored 15 goals in 19 games so far and is an absolute handful for defenders. Cercle’s attacking style of play allows him plenty of chances a game, while he is also well suited to pressing in the final third, an area that the side lead the league in. It is easy to forget that he is just 23-years-old. Cercle have already signed another young striker in anticipation that Denkey will not be in Brugge much longer.

Striker: Mohamed Amoura (Union St Gilloise)

The final striker position was a difficult one to decide. The recent form of Thiago Rodrigues means he deserves an honourable mention, yet Mohamed Amoura of Union gets the nod for the final spot. In just 15 games so far this season, the Algerian international already has 13 goals. He has also performed well in the Europa League and could well catch Denkey by the end of the season. He is also AFCON bound and if he can translate his Pro League form into the tournament Algeria could have a real chance of adding trophy number three to their cabinet.

It is always difficult picking just 11 players to make such a team. More honourable mentions must go out to Julien De Sart of Gent, Bryan Heynen of Genk, Loic Lapoussin of Union and Adem Zorgane. All have been excellent, but did not do enough to beat those mentioned here.

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

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