GBENEFN Awards 2022/2023 | The Belgian Pro League Nominees

Antwerp’s dramatic late title sealing goal capped off another dramatic season in the Belgian Pro League. With everything now wrapped up, it’s time for you, our readers, to vote for the best player in each position, as well as a number of other categories such as; U23 player of the season, signing of the season, coach of the season and overall player of the season.

Firstly, to goalkeeper of the season. Jean Butez (Antwerp) kept the most clean sheets, but Maarten Vandevoordt (Genk) led the league in save percentage with 73.3%, just over a percent more than Butez. Radoslaw Majecki (Cercle Brugge) put in a number of top quality performances, leading the league with 6.5 goals prevented thanks to saving three of the 14 penalties he faced during the season. Burkina Faso number one Herve Koffi (Charleroi) came third in save percentage with 70.9%, while also having an average of 3.3 saves per match.

At right-back, it will be hard to look beyond Daniel Munoz (Genk). The Colombian has had an incredible season, with the 27-year-old scoring eight goals and providing five assists across 36 league games. hot on his heels is 21-year-old defender Louis Patris (OH Leuven). The youngster did play at center-back as well during the campaign, but while on the right-hand-side he grabbed an incredible six assists to lead the team. former Feyenoord man Bart Nieuwkoop (Union St Gilloise) had another strong season for Union as they were just pipped to the title once again. The 27-year-old Dutchman scored three goals nad provided three assists as he contributed at both ends for the Brussels side. Jelle Bataille (Antwerp) forced his way into being first choice at right-back for Antwerp this season. He started all six play-off games and gave the crucial assist for the league winning goal, his fourth of the season.

At central defence, Toby Alderweireld (Antwerp) was always going to be a candidate. He lead at the back, and ultimately did so at the front as well with the title winning goal. Joining last summer on a free, he helped Antwerp to having the best defence in the league and a historic double. Genk had the second best defence during the season, with American Mark McKenzie being ever present at the heart of it. He looked comfortable at this level and even contributed some goals, proving to be a danger from set pieces. Gent were desperate to make the loan signing of Jordan Torunarigha from Hertha Berlin permanent in the summer, and it is clear to see why. Good on the ball, and with enough pace to cause many strikers a headache, it was another impressive season for the 25-year-old German. Sint-Truiden are built on a solid defence, and no one epitomizes this more than their captain Toni Leistner. He will be a big loss this season, with the German leading the side to concede just 40 goals in 34 matches.

Left-back’s were led by Club Brugge loanee Maxim De Cuyper (Westerlo). The 22-year-old was outstanding for the newly promoted side all season and will be a huge loss in the summer when he returns to his parent club. Nine goals and seven assists from De Cuyper is what led to Westerlo making it into play-off two. Bjorn Meijer (Club Brugge) had a great first season for Club Brugge, even if they ultimately fell short of defending their title. The 20-year-old scored three goals and provided six assists for the side, and many will speculate what happens with both he and De Cuyper next season. Gerardo Arteaga had a solid season for Genk as they battled for the title. The Mexican scored two and provided three, but was a constant runner on the left-hand side to give extra width and put pressure on opposition wingers. Loic Lapoussin (Union St Gilloise) could go down as a winger or a full-back, such is his versatility. But as Nieuwkoop made it into the other section, the Madagascan earns a place here. Three goals and four assists don’t leap off the page, but anyone who has watched Union will know the talent that the 27-year-old has, as well as the motor he possesses to get up and down that left-hand side. Against Club Brugge during a game in October 2022, he singlehandedly played both left-back and left-wing when the side went down to 10 men, making it feel like both sides still had 11 on the pitch.

There are plenty of talented midfielders in the Belgian Pro League, but we have decided to split them into more defensive central midfielders, or hybrid, and those attacking midfielders. Let’s start with the former, and it has to be with Union St Gilloise captain Teddy Teuma. The Maltese international scored 10 goals and provided 12 assists as the side narrowly missed out on the title. He was often the driving force in midfield that made things happen. Adem Zorgane (Charleroi) had a fantastic season for the Zebras. He contributed at both ends, grabbing four goals and eight assists, attracting interest from abroad. It is unlikely he is back in a Charleroi shirt next season. Genk’s captain Bryan Heynen had another great season, with 11 goals and four assists, with many coming at crucial times. Without Alderweireld’s late strike, he would have scored the title winning goal. Cercle Brugge’s Abu Francis comes in as arguably the more out and out defensive style of the names mentioned. He replaced Leonardo Da Silva Lopes due to injury and never looked back, showing great ability to recover possession for Cercle and fitting in well to their high pressing system.

Further forward, we have to start the list with Morocco’s teenage sensation Bilal El Khannous (Genk). While five assists and just one goal don’t leap off the page, anyone watching the youngster will know he is a serious talent. Most of Genk’s goals this season will have involved a clever pass from the 19-year-old at some point in the build up. There is a reason he is wanted by so many. Hans Vanaken made a slow start to the season, but by the end he was putting up the numbers you’d expect, even if Club Brugge were poor. He finished with 14 goals and six assists, finishing one ahead of Ferran Jutgla as the sides top scorer. Hyun-Seok Hong opened his account for Gent with a sensational goal against Oostende, and since then has been a joy to watch. Gent look better with him on the pitch, as his six goals and six assists have proven. It’s still a surprise he was bought over from LASK relatively cheaply. Standard Liege are desparate to make the loan deal for Philip Zinckernagel permanent. He led the side in terms of goals with 10, alongside two assists. It felt like all 10 were goals worthy of a goal of the season award.

The Pro League always has produced quality wingers, and this year was no different. With 24 assists and eight goals, Mike Tresor is certainly the stand out in this category. He set a record for assists and was rewarded with the official Pro League player of the season trophy. His teammate Joseph Paintsil was equally impressive, but was overshadowed by Tresor. The Ghanaian winger had his best season in Belgium with 17 goals and 11 assists. KV Mechelen had a poor season, but without Geoffry Hairemans they would have been well and truly in the relegation scrap. the 31-year-old scored nine goals and provided eight assists to ensure they were safe with a few games to spare. Likewise, Kortrijk were aided by Comoros international Faiz Selemani. The winger led the side with eight goals and four assists. He will be a huge loss this summer when he finally departs the club.

There were plenty of talented strikers in the Belgian Pro League this season. Hugo Cuypers (Gent) led the charge as he finished as the leagues top scorer with 27 goals in 39 games, becoming the first Belgian top scorer since Romelu Lukaku in 2009/2010. He was battling for the title with Cercle Brugge’s Ayase Ueda. In the Japanese internationals first season in Belgium he scored 22 goals, and that even came after a slow start. It’s anticipated that he will be one and done in Belgium. Sint-Truiden were led by Gianni Bruno, with the Gent loanee scored 18 goals, almost half of the teams overall goals this season. Bruno is one of the most wanted strikers for a majority of Belgian sides in the summer, as Gent are unlikely to keep him. Many were surprised when Antwerp signed vincent Janssen in the summer, but by the end of the season their decision had been vindicated. They looked to lack any attacking potency when he wasn’t on the pitch after Michael Frey left, and with 18 goals he led the side to the title.

Our final awards will follow over the weekend.

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

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