Belgian Pro League winter transfer window: Winners and losers

Now that all the deals are done, it’s time to assess who excelled with their business during the winter transfer window and who fell short.


In: Yira Sor, Anouar Ait El Hadj, Alfred Caicedo, Tolu Arokodare

Out: Paul Onuachu, Andras Nemeth, Sebastien Dewaest

Up until the final day of the transfer window, Genk looked to have had done well. Yira Sor and Anouar Ait El Hadj came in to strengthen the attack, while Alfred Caicedo joined as a future prospect. However, as soon as it became apparent that Paul Onuachu was on his way to the Premier League on deadline day, things looked to have gone very badly for the league leaders. With little time to replace the top scorer, the side were forced to quickly bring in a striker. This became more pressing given that Andras Nemeth had been sold to Hamburg earlier in the window They beat Anderlecht to the signing of Tolu Arokodare to hopefully lessen the blow of losing Onuachu. Losing Onuachu so late could really hurt their title chances.

Grade: B

Union St Gilloise

In: Casper Terho, Yorbe Vertessen

Out: Dante Vanzeir

While it is still awaiting official confirmation, as the window went on it became clear that Dante Vanzeir would be leaving the club to join the MLS. Like Genk, Union were to lose their tops scorer. However, unlike Genk Vanzeir’s goal contributions were not as large as Onuachu’s. By bringing in Vertessen on loan from PSV, the side look to have moved quickly to cover that loss. It remains to be seen whether Vertessen can play the role that Vanzeir did for the side. However, even without the MLS bound striker, the side have continued to win thanks to the goals of Gustaf Nilsson. Long-term losing Vanzeir may be a blow, but for this window it was neither spectatular or underwhelming for Union.

Grade: B


In: Gyrano Kerk, Mandela Keita

Out: Radja Nainggolan, Michael Frey, Pierre Dwomoh, Dinis Almeida, Bruny Nsimba

Another side that lost a striker, Antwerp however did not lose their top scorer. Seeing the sides above them lose theirs should provide a major boost for the Great Old. Michael Frey left for Schalke, but was replaced with Gyrano Kerk who gives the side a different profile of striker to use alongside Vincent Janssen. They also managed to swoop in for Mandela Keita, a highly talented midfielder who struggled for game time at Leuven due to injury. He will help plug a gap in the midfield that has been decimated by injuries. The other outgoings were all fringe players so should not impact the sides chances of now putting in a title challenge.

Grade: A

Club Brugge

In: Jack Hendry, Josef Bursik

Out: Eder Balanta, Ruud Vormer, Eduard Sobol, Ibe Hautekiet, Noah Mbamba, Cyle Larin

Club Brugge were quiet on the incomings this window, with just Jack Hendry returning on loan and Josef Bursik coming in as a back-up to Simon Mignolet. They were incredibly busy in terms of outgoings, with young players and veterans leaving the side. Ruud Vormer finally departed for Zulte Waregem, while Eduard Sobol and Eder Balanta went in search of more game time. Losing Noah Mbamba could be a long-term blow, while summer signing Cyle Larin was also moved on. The only surprise was that the side did not go after another striker. Ferran Jutgla is now an injury concern and has gone quiet after a hot start, while record signing Roman Yaremchuk looks a shadow of the player that played for Gent a few seasons ago. Scott Parker was clear in not wanting new signings, but if the side are serious about mounting a title challenge the window did not appear to indicate this.

Grade: C


In: Kamil Piatkowski, Gift Emmanuel Orban

Out: Andreas Hanche-Olsen, Ibrahim Salah, Emmanuel Owusu, Chinonso Emeka

Gent looked to have done well in the window, until out of no wehere the side lost Ibrahim Salah to Rennes. Prior to this, they quickly replaced Andreas Hanche-Olsen with Kamil Piatkowski to make sure they remained strong at the back. It remains to be seen if Gift Emmanuel Orban can contribute straight away after an impressive season in the Norwegian second tier, as this could determine whether losing Salah will hurt as much. Yet the money the received from the Salah transfer will certainly help with the worrying financial situation the club seem to be in.

Grade B

Standard Liege

In: Ibe Hautekiet

Out: Nicolas Raskin, Selim Amallah, Alexander Boljevic, Denis Dragus, Abdoul Tapsoba

For Standard, this transfer window was all about getting something in return for Nicolas Raskin and Selim Amallah. With both players out of contract in the summer, losing them on a free would have been painful for a side that need the finances. It was clear that the club were negotiating from a position of weakness for both, yet they still managed to eek out value for both. They also managed to shift Alexander Boljevic, who has been on the transfer list for a few seasons now. Ronny Deila’s team selections over the past few weeks has made it clear which players he wants to use, and none of the departing were part of this. Losing Raskin and Amallah hurts in the now, but neither were playing and with their deals running out, getting value for them is a big plus for Standard. In an ideal world they would have brought in more players, but the restrictions they are operating under means that was unrealistic.

Grade: A


In: Yusuke Matsuo

Out: Lyle Foster, Halil Akbunar

The big move for Westerlo was getting a club record fee for Lyle Foster. In the next game the side did not appear to miss a beat as Kyan Vaesen hit a brace. They also saw Halil Akbunar return to Turkey due to family reasons, but he has been replaced by Yusuke Matsuo. The finances the club got for Foster make it in a strange way a good transfer window for Westerlo, as although the South African was their top scorer with eight, Dorgless Nene is just two goals behind him with six. With Jonas De Roek in charge, the fans should be confident that the side will be able to maintain their success without Foster, who has certainly given the side a good chunk of money to imrpove the squad further in the summer.

Grade: A

OH Leuven

In: Emmanuel Toku, Mai Traore, Nathan Opoku

Out: Raphael Holzhauser, Mandela Keita, Alexander Buksa, Sofian Chakla, Santiago Ramos-Mingo, Joao Gamboa

Another interesting if not great transfer window for OH Leuven. Almost every summer signing left the club, highlighting how poor that window was. Losing and not replacing Mandela Keita on deadline day is also a concern for OH Leuven, as despite his lack of playing time one would presume that he was still regaining match fitness after the injury and would have been able to contribute during the second half of the season. All three incomings are interesting and it would be wrong to dismiss them despite having seen very little of them, but judging by the summer transfers its difficult to know what we will get. Marc Byrs has said while he understands the reasons for Keita and Holzhausers departures, he was also frustrated that this limited his options on the pitch. In many ways it feels like OH Leuven haven’t improved, but haven’t weakened. If they want a play-off two spot come the end of the season then improvement might have been required.

Grade: C

Cercle Brugge

In: Hugo Siquet

Out: Aske Sampers, Louis Torres, Heitor

A quiet transfer window for Cercle, with the side clearly happy with the business they did in the summer and not feeling the need to tinker with the main squad too much. Hugo Siquet, if the can replicate the form he showed at Standard Liege before his move to the Bundesliga, could prove to be a shrewd pick-up by Carlos Avina and the club. Keeping hold of key players was a big plus, and its clear they have confidence in Miron Muslic and the current squad to push for a play-off spot come the end of the season.

Grade: B


In: Rocco Rietz, Taichi Hara

Out: Ameen Al Dakhil, Christian Bruls, Shinji Kagawa

No one is really sure the direction that the Canaries are going in, and this transfer window was certainly a sign of that. Bern Hollerbach is leaving in the summer, and the only moves they made were to bring in two players who had been on loan last year. Both return on loan again, showing that there is no long-term commitment to anything until a new manager is installed in the summer. Losing Bruls and Al Dakhil could prove costly, especially if there are injuries. The money they got for the young defender could be useful come the summer, but all in all its now up to the players that remained to push for a play-off spot.

Grade: C


In: Anders Dreyer, Islam Slimani

Out: Wesley Hoedt, Fabio Silva, Sebastiano Esposito, Anouar Ait El Hadj, Julien Duranville

While the hunt for a new striker clearly did not go the way many fans would have wanted, the side did manage to move wages off the books with Wesley Hoedt, as well as getting money for the out of favour defender. Anders Dreyer looks a good signing, and maybe Islam Slimani could come off in the short term. Losing young players in Anouar Ait El Hadj and Julien Duranville in the long term will be painful, but the short term financial gains were necessary. The club are targeting the summer transfer window to fully rebuild the squad, but as of now it looks unlikely that they will get close to European football. The long-term grade could be good, yet in the short term this window appears poor for the Mauves.

Grade: C


In: Vakoun Bayo, Valentine Ozomwafor, Nikola Stulic

Out: Loic Bessile, Ali Gholizadeh, Aboubakar Koita, Anthony Descotte, Nauris Petkevicius, Martin Wasinski

Charleroi got what they wanted, and two of them. Strikers were the order of the day, as the side were crying out for someone to replace Vakoun Bayo since he departed in the summer. In the end, they just went and got Bayo back from Watford on loan. The striker joined at the same point last season and went on to score 11 goals. If he can do the same, a late play-off two charge is on the cards. Nikola Stulic has an impressive goal record this season in the Serbian league, so it will certainly be interesting to see if he can adapt to the Belgian league as quickly. The departures were mainly fringe players bar Ali Gholizadeh. The Iranian international was destined to leave this window and it did not come as a surprise. He was not a key player for them this year so should not be missed too much.

Grade: A


In: Loic Bessile, Davo, Aleksandr Filin, Brandon Baiye, Ibrahim Diakite

Out: James Jeggo, Jan Kral, Pierre Akono, Sambou Soumano, Marciano Aziz

Eupen certainly left a lot of their business until deadline day, but what they did do appears to be solid. They brought in defenders with more experience to help an incredibly young defence, as well as some intriguing attacking quality in Davo. The Spanish winger joins as Wisla Plock’s top scorer and if he can show the same form he did in Poland he could help their goal shy forward line. The outgoings highlighted a few misses in the summer, with Sambou Soumano leaving having scored one goal and Jan Kral having barely featured for the side. In true Eupen style, James Jeggo suddenly disappeared and the next time we saw him he was playing for Hibernian. If the players can hit the ground running, Ed Still should have enough to work with to give them a fighting chance of staying up. With the budget the club has, this looks like a decent if not spectacular window.

Grade: B


In: Enock Agyei

Out: Thibaut Peyre, Victor Wernesson

Given their current financial situation, the winter transfer window was always going to be a difficult one for Mechelen. They need to keep hold of their better players to make sure they aren’t relegated, but they also would need to sell some of these in order to bring new faces in. They chased strikers, with Sedar Dursan their top target. However, the former Darmstadt man decided to remain in Turkey. There is enough quality in the side, when everyone is fit, to stay up, but it has been clear all season they miss a clinical striker. Without reinforcements during the window, Steven Defour will be praying that key players remain fit for the rest of the season. If injuries do occur and the unthinkable does happen, the club will be bemoaning a poor winter window.

Grade: D


In: Christalino Atemola, Martin Regali, Nikolas Dyhr, Martin Wasinski

Out: Didier Lamkel Ze, Alexander De Bruyne, Amine Benchaib

Bernd Storck was clear when he joined that he wanted players that would fight for the club. He banished a few to the B team as a result, with three of those having left the club. The others have so far remained, and are now stuck in limbo. In terms of incomings, Christalino Atemola and Martin Wasinski have featured a few times and are clearly players the manager trusts. It remains to be seen what Martin Regali and Nikolas Dyhr will be able to bring. One area Storck did really want was a defensive midfielder. Unfortunately they missed out on three which could prove costly. Kortrijk certainly didn’t break the bank this window in a push to stay up, and will be hoping that they won’t regret missing out on the central midfielder that their head coach desired.

Grade B

Zulte Waregem

In: Ruud Vormer, Christian Bruls, Karol Fila

Out: Chinonso Offor, Bassem Srarfi, Lasse Vigen

Ruud Vormer and Zulte Waregem was a transfer talked about for the entire first half of the Pro League season. Despite Mbaye Leye denying he wanted to see the former Club Brugge captain join the club, he was more than delighted by the experienced midfielders arrival. They also added the creativity of Christian Bruls from Sint-Truiden. Both have had an instant impact in terms of the sides mentality, as bar a recent 4-0 hammering by Union St Gilloise they have looked tougher to beat. They have beaten Mechelen and Anderlecht, lost narrowly to Club Brugge and made the cup semi-finals. All three outgoings were fringe players, so should not hurt the side. Vormer’s leadership is exactly what Zulte Waregem needed and bringing him and Bruls in have given the side the best chance of staying up.

Grade: A


In: John Nekadio

Out: Sérgio Conceição, Simon Elisor, Leroy Abanda

Despite their poor season, Seraing were very quiet in the transfer window. Perhaps, given they lack the support of FC Metz, the club hierarchy have realised that it is not worth throwing everything at survival and then suffering the consequences further down the line. Despite their lack of business, the side did recently end their year long wait for a home league win. It is unlikely that this will spark a mini-revival, as the squad lacks the quality it needs to be a Belgian Pro League side. It seems to be the right decision, but it would have been nice to see a few players come in who could have helped them return to the top flight at the first time of asking.

Grade: D

KV Oostende

In: Mateo Barac, Pierre Dwomoh, Ivan Durdov, Matej Rodin, Kelvin Asare

Out: Alessandro Albanese, Kyle Duncan, Vincient Koziello

Oostende were one of the most active sides in the transfer window, but their activity doesn’t stand out on paper as being enough to change their fortunes. The side needed defensive stability, but so far Matej Rodin has seemed to possess the same mistakes that have been plaguing the rest of the back three. The club will be hopeful that Mateo Barac can bring some defensive organisation to the team, otherwise the leagues worst defence will continue to ship goals. Pierre Dwomoh has been touted to be one of the next big talents of Belgian football, but his attitude has been an issue in most situations he’s been in. If the club can get the best out of him, maybe that will be the catalyst they need. On paper Kelvin Asare looks to be the same profile of players as a number that the squad already has, without being one that improves that position. Ivan Durdov has shown a willingness to put himself about so far, but it is evident that Fraser Hornby is the different maker for them upfront. It’s hard to pinpoint where this transfer window leaves Oostende, as while the board were active, it doesn’t feel like the players brought in will do enough.

Grade: C

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

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