Finally, the rumour and conjecture is over and we can get back to talking about the football. The Premier League has finally got under-way and the opening day actually brought with it some interesting (compared to transfer gossip) talking points.
Along with Manchester United showing no signs of disruption after management change, Arsène Wenger performed his admirable pantomime villain role for his own fans as Arsenal suffered an ignominious defeat at the Emirates Stadium that led to much misplaced vitriol and calls for a 'shake up'. One game into the season and many believe Arsenal's fate is already sealed.
However, away from the soap-operatic media stories, one thing that stood out on day one of the Premier League was the respective performances of Simon Mignolet on his Liverpool debut and, arguably the best young player of 2013 in England, Christian Benteke. Both players are members of the growing contingent of Belgians plying their trade in England who are part of a promising 'golden generation' for the European nation.
Should young Manchester United right-back Marnick Vermijl have a breakthrough season at the club, although rational judgement would suggest he will not, then the Premier League would be able to provide a full first 11 (playing 4-4-2) to the Belgian national team. And this would not be a team where players are shoehorned into positions, individuals would be in familiar or preferred positions.
Currently sitting on top of their World Cup qualifying group with a positive goal difference of 11 after seven games, reaching the finals should be no more than a formality for Belgium. Both Mignolet and Benteke impressed in their club openers, and, supported by other leading cast members such as Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, Moussa Dembélé and Marouane Fellaini to name just a few, Belgium are as strong on paper as other favourites on the road to Rio.
However, it is this major presence in England which could be the downfall for this much admired pool of talent. With no winter break and a greater focus on physicality, the Premier League is widely considered to be the most draining of all the leagues in Europe. On top of continental and domestic cup competitions, a player can be included in over 60 games per season.
Last year, Hazard appeared 63 times for Chelsea. By comparison, Lionel Messi played 50 times for Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo 55 times for Real Madrid and Arjen Robben and Thomas Müller only 30 and 47 times respectively for Champions League winners Bayern Munich.
This is where the Belgian collective could struggle come June 2014 when challenging for the Jules Rimet trophy. This particular group of talent are, individually, very good, and as such they all play key roles at their clubs. By the time the world trains its attention on Brazil next year, the players who are drained after another taxing campaign where five or six clubs challenge for four lucrative league positions may be at a disadvantage in the Amazonian heat.
On top of the conditions, they also have the 'golden generation' burden to carry. It's been seen in the past that England couldn't carry the mantle while the Dutch, Danish and an over-enthusiastic Scottish contingent in the seventies have also buckled under the title of being 'golden'. Yet the French and the Spanish have overcome this to succeed, and, if Belgium do the same, it would be even more impressive given the size of the country's population.
Many have already commented on the options available to this international squad and clearly it's foolish to predict how the future would play out. Anything from suspensions to injuries could change the face of the everything by next summer. Also to consider is the Belgians history for a lack of team spirit, and as the French showed in 2010, disharmony can be more damaging than anything else in a tournament squad.
This would be an unfortunate end for a team with so much potential. So in the mean time, we should sit back and enjoy what these players will bring to the domestic Premier League season ahead.
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