Noa Lang came in for plenty of criticism after Club Brugge lost 3-1 to Genk at the weekend. This was not just from watching media, but also from his own head coach. As quoted by HLN, head coach Rik De Mil said ‘I told Noa during halftime that he was too busy with the referee and peripheral matters. He has to learn from that. Noa can play soccer so well and regularly pulls our team over the line. But in top matches you have to be focused on the assignments on the field’.
Many watchers of Belgian football will admit that Lang, based on talent, should have left the league a few seasons ago. The Dutch international’s first year with Club Brugge was exceptional. During that 2020/2021 campaign the attacker scored 16 goals and provided seven assists. The following year, his assist numbers increased to 12, while his goals went down to seven. Injury certainly cost him a move, as he asked to move to the bench in order to manage his injury and get a move. The move didn’t materialise, with Lang remaining at Club Brugge another season.
So far this year, Lang has moved into a more central striker role when required, scoring eight goals in the league and providing five assists. On his day he can be unplayable, and this summer he should get the move he wants. Yet, criticism like that of his coach could hold some clubs back. Erik Ten Haag famously clashed with the winger when he was at Ajax, bringing about many questions about the players temperament on and off the pitch. Even after the first season with Club Brugge, in which they won the league, Lang got into trouble for statements he made about Anderlecht fans during the title celebrations.
Part of what makes Lang great is that he plays on the edge. When on song, it is a fine line between him getting a yellow card, or grabbing a hat-trick. Many footballers have had this trait, and with Lang he has, over the past seasons, began to manage this well. Yet when performances like the one against Genk happen, and in such a big game, you do have to wonder if this will put some of the bigger clubs off.
The talent is there to play in a bigger league, and without guaranteed European football the Dutchman will certainly be open to offers. Premier League and Serie A clubs have circled in the past, with Lang having not been completely happy with the offers that have come his way. This summer should see Lang finally get his big move, but who will be willing to take the bad with the good remains to be seen.