Youri Tielemans

Tielemans: From Schoolboy Sensation To Established International

From schoolboy sensation to established international star, this is the story of how Youri Tielemans became one of the most exciting talents in Europe.
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Following his successful loan spell last season, the Belgium international has committed himself to a four-year contract despite interest from several of Europe’s biggest clubs.

The son of Flemish and Congolese parents, Youri was still at school when he made his UEFA Champions League debut for Anderlecht in 2013 at the age of 16 years and 148 days.

The youngest Belgian to appear in European football’s platinum club competition, Tielemans had been on Anderlecht’s radar since he was five after being born in nearby municipality Sint-Pieters-Leeuw.

Following swift progress through the academy with the 34-time Belgian champions, the two-footed midfielder also starred in a Jupiler Pro League fixture against K.S.C Lokeren three days after his 16th birthday.

It ended in a 3-2 defeat, but the post-match discussion was dominated by the breakthrough talent of a youngster many had already been told in hush tones to look out for several years beforehand.

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Youri Tielemans
Youri Tielemans

There were four consecutive European campaigns for Tielemans at Anderlecht.

Unusually confident for such a young player, Jean Kindermans, the head of Anderlecht's youth department, likened Tielemans to Axel Witsel, while the player himself idolised Zinédine Zidane.

Mohammed Ouahbi, another Anderlecht youth coach, said: “We have always known Tielemans was a super talent. Whenever anyone asked me who would go far, I would mention his name first.”

As his stock continued to rise, Tielemans’ attacking qualities were complimented with the ability to sit in as a holding midfielder and this raw tenacity made him a useful box-to-box player for Anderlecht.

In June 2014, he was named Belgium’s Young Player of the Year before also collecting the nation’s Most Promising Newcomer prize in January 2015. Naturally, other clubs were alerted.

After making his senior international debut in a 1-1 friendly draw with the Netherlands in late 2016, Monaco emerged as his most likely destination.

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Youri Tielemans
Youri Tielemans

Tielemans made a total of 65 appearances for Monaco.

He scored five goals in 15 matches during the 2016/17 Europa League campaign as Anderlecht reached the quarter-finals, earning the dogmatic midfielder a place in UEFA’s Squad of the Season.

“He is a phenomenon,” said former Anderlecht and Sweden midfielder Pär Zetterberg. “There are not many players better than him. 

The following summer, after 35 goals in 185 appearances, two league titles and a duo of Belgian Super Cups over four years, Tielemans headed to France to join Ligue 1 champions, Monaco.

A reportedly lofty transfer fee made headlines and his assist for Djibril Sidibé in a 2-1 Trophée des Champions loss to Paris Saint-Germain immediately provided a preview of what was to come. 

In September 2017, his first competitive goal for the Principality club came in a 1-1 Champions League draw with German side RB Leipzig.

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Youri Tielemans
Youri Tielemans

Tielemans and his Belgium side twice beat England at the 2018 World Cup.

He went on to appear 35 times for the side in his first season, also playing alongside Leicester City’s Rachid Ghezzal, and Monaco eventually finished as runners-up under Leonardo Jardim. 

Last summer, on the other hand, an appearance against Gareth Southgate’s England came Tielemans’ way in the FIFA World Cup as the Red Devils sealed third place in Russia – their best-ever finish.

If 2017/18 was a learning curve for Tielemans, last term the 14-capped Belgium international excelled, scoring five goals for Monaco – more than any other central midfielder in Ligue 1.

Just 21 at the time, Youri arrived at King Power Stadium in January on loan and immediately won the hearts of the Blue Army.

His talent was clear for everyone to see during his debut, a scintillating personal display during a defeat by Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium in February. 

It was under the management of Brendan Rodgers that Tielemans shined in Leicester blue, scoring three goals and laying up four assists for his team-mates.

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Youri Tielemans
Youri Tielemans

Youri instantly became a hit with the fans in Leicester.

The Belgian’s maiden Foxes goal, a tidy finish to a flowing counter-attack, came in a 3-1 victory over Fulham at King Power Stadium, Rodgers’ first home match in charge.

Meanwhile, it was Tielemans’ inch-perfect cross which landed on the head of Wes Morgan to score City’s last-gasp equaliser at Burnley too.

A stunning effort followed for Youri in a 4-1 triumph over Huddersfield Town, and Tielemans again laid it up for Harvey Barnes in the final minute at West Ham United. 

His performance during a 3-0 home success over Arsenal, however, whetted the appetite of the Blue Army for what could follow over seasons to come.

Leicester were brilliant for the entire 90 minutes and Tielemans added a headed goal to his repertoire on a day which signalled Rodgers’ exciting stratagem for the Foxes.

Now a permanent member of Rodgers’ squad – a youthful, talented collective of internationals – Tielemans is likely to be at the heart of the Northern Irishman’s plans for the future.

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