Genk, first supplier of national age teams (infographic)

Based on the latest lists published on the Belgian Football Federation website, we have listed the clubs to which players playing in the national teams from U15 to U21 belong.

Without taking into account the “futures” category or the recently created U20 category, we identified 121 players divided into six categories (U15, U16, U17, U18, U19 and therefore U21). Among them, 21 play abroad and 100 in Belgium (see infographic).

With 23 players – or almost a fifth – from Genk, the Limburg club remains the leading supplier ahead of Anderlecht (17), Standard and La Gantoise (12). “In total, there are 32 but, for various reasons (school schedule, injuries, overload, etc.), not all of them joined the selection this time,” explains Michel Ribeiro, trainer and individual technical coach in Genk for around twenty years. A remark that applies to other clubs. This infographic is a snapshot of a moment in time, not a timeless list.

Clubs that feed youth teams
Clubs that feed youth teams ©IPM Graphics

Strong DNA

Surprising to see Genk in the lead? Not really. Or not at all. Because since the founding of the Jos Vaesen Talent Academy In 2002, Racing Genk placed training at the center of its concerns and investments. Infrastructure, recruitment, training plan, supervision: everything is put in place to polish young people with high potential. While the club sometimes struggled in the past to attract young people who preferred Anderlecht, Standard, Bruges or Dutch clubs, today it is the best in Belgium. The annual budget exceeds 4 million euros.

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“We have a strong DNA: the 4-3-3 with maximum ball possession and high technical ease, comments Michel Ribeiro. We also teach our young people to play several positions. And at home, everyone plays… We show patience. The most important thing in our eyes, in these categories, is not the scores but the evolution, the progression and quite simply the work. The goal remains that as many players as possible join the first team.”


If a young person leaves, it is because he has his reasons.

Courtois, De Bruyne, Carrasco, Praet, Defour, Trossard, Castagne, Benteke, Vossen… The list of talents trained at Genk and who have reached the (sub) top level is long. Today, the KRC is also recognized on a European level and recruiters from all over are scrutinizing Limburg talents. “I wouldn’t say that we have more players leaving abroad early. In any case, if a young person leaves, it is because he has his reasons, and we must then be able to look in the mirror to know why. On the other hand, we also know how to attract. Recently, a youngster from Ajax joined us in U17, which proves that it works both ways.”

Jong Genk's goalkeeper Mike Penders pictured during a soccer match between Jong Genk and SV Zulte-Waregem, Friday 15 September 2023 in Geel, on day 05 of the 2023-2024 'Challenger Pro League' 1B second division of the Belgian championship.  BELGA PHOTO JOHAN EYCKENS
Goalkeeper of “Jong Genk” in D1B, Mike Penders (18 years old) is also captain of the Belgian U19s.

At Standard, not an end in itself

In other proportions of course, but in Charleroi we are also pleased to be feeding the national selections today more than yesterday. Half a dozen Zébrions were called up in October. The result of greater investments over several years for an operating budget which is now around 2.3 million euros, while the extension of the Marcinelle site is in the pipeline. The appointment of Damien Ovart – who succeeded the precious Alain Decuyper at the head of the youth school – also made it possible to establish a new dynamic at the Zébra Academy.

Standard: change in the training center organization chart

A change of direction that Anderlecht has also just made, second supplier of young talents to the national youth teams in Belgium. The recent departure of Jean Kindermans was filled by the arrivals of Henk Mariman (training center manager) and Mikkel Hemmersam (Sports Manager) as well as the return of Peter Verbeke (talent and innovation manager). We will probably have to wait several months to observe the effects of this new organization chart, but the RSCA intends to maintain its reputation as an excellent training club.


The national team allows them to compete against big nations.

Standard completes the podium for this November break with a dozen players taken over. Like its competitors, it is a little less than in October (17). “Feeding the national teams is not an end in itself but above all it is an undeniable asset for our players. This allows them to compete against big nations like Spain, the Netherlands or England. More than interesting matches”, summarizes Réginald Goreux, sports manager of the Liège academy and coach of SL16 FC, the U23 team. However, there is a downside: the school calendar, different in the north and south of the country, which is not always easy to coordinate with international gatherings. A very black-yellow-red specificity.

Samuel Nibombe (ex-Anderlecht and ex-Charleroi), son of Daré Nibombe (ex-RAEC Mons) signed his first professional contract with AS Monaco in the summer of 2023.
Samuel Nibombe signed his first professional contract with AS Monaco until 2026. ©DR – ASMONACO

Like others, Nibombe chose abroad

Among the players listed, some have taken the gamble of already going abroad. By choice or by opportunity. Five players – including U18 internationals Enzo Geerts and Renzo Tytens – play at PSV Eindhoven, a well-known channel for Belgian talent. Others, in their time, had opted for the north of France (Lille and Lens), like the Hazard brothers. Or England, like Charly Musonda Jr, who left from Anderlecht to Chelsea at the age of 15 before getting lost along the way.

Last summer, Samuel Nibombe, Belgian U17 international defender, also chose France to continue his training. Direction AS Monaco after debuts at Mons (until 2015), Anderlecht (2015-2018) then especially Charleroi (2018-2023). “Monaco was the best choice. The project ticked all the boxes for continued learning,” explains Daré, his dad, former defender at RAEC Mons (2003-2008) and Togolese international.

Will Sporting de Charleroi lose one of its gems?

However, there was no shortage of requests, both Belgian and foreign. Including Club Bruges, Anderlecht but also Bayern Munich, Frankfurt, Manchester City and United, Milan, Lille… “We must certainly not minimize the quality of training in Belgium, particularly in Genk”, insists the father. His son signed a first professional contract with ASM this summer (2026) and is currently playing with the Monaco U19s. “I was a trainer at Charleroi and, every time I faced Genk, I saw that they played football with a strong identity and principles. But Monaco, in all areas, including education and management, was in our eyes the best choice.”

Let’s not hide the financial aspect, which often comes into consideration earlier and earlier in discussions between clubs and parents, or even agents. In Belgium and abroad. “Monaco was not in the top 3 of financial offers. It was not our priority, unlike the training, supervision and perspectives aspect,” would like to point out Daré Nibombe, whose son seems to have a bright future if he continues his momentum.

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