Belgian football is currently in a golden era. The national team has been at the top of the FIFA world rankings for almost three and a half years after ascending to the top spot in October 2018. However, their wait for major silverware continues.
Their current crop of players has been deemed the 'golden generation' of Belgian football, and it truly boasts talent in abundance. The nation has world-class players who have proven their pedigree on the biggest stage time and again. These players have also inspired a lot of youngsters in the country.
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has always been open to giving young prospects a chance. Some breakout stars' displays have forced the manager to give them a call. These young players' performances also reflect in the transfer market, where their stocks have been on the rise for quite a while.
On that note, here's a look at the five most valuable U-21 Belgian players.
#5 Aster Vranckx - €10 million
Aster Vranckx made his first move away from his native country in the summer of 2021. The youngster moved to Germany, where he now plays for Vfl Wolfsburg.
The 19-year-old came through the ranks at KV Mechelen in the Jupiler Pro League, the first division of Belgian football. He made his first-team debut in 2019. The central midfielder was signed by VfL Wolfsburg after he spent two seasons in the Pro League.
Vranckx has, so far, impressed with his physicality and intensity on the field. Strong on his feet, he has a very impressive leap that makes him dominant aerially.
The teenager is a competitive player in the middle of the park, and has proven his ability to seamlessly join the offence. He has made 11 appearances in the Bundesliga so far this season, and has also played four times in the UEFA Champions League.
#4 Arthur Theate - €10 million
Arthur Theate made his debut for Belgium's senior team in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Wales in November 2021. In January 2022, it was reported that AC Milan were enquiring about a possible transfer for the centre-back.
Currently playing for Bologna (on loan from KV Oostende), Theate is one of the brightest young players in Serie A. He is a modern-day centre-back, capable of charging forward with the ball and playing progressive passes in the attacking third.
The 21-year-old has great positional awareness, which was evident when he scored two goals against Inter Milan and Lazio in Serie A. The Belgian can efficiently spot passes from the back, and has shown a penchant to execute long balls effectively.
Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are both on the wrong side of 30s. Although reliable, they have gotten considerably slow on the pitch.
Martinez has already given Theate his debut. With the defender's current performances for Bologna, he could very well make Belgium's starting XI at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this year.
#3 Yari Verschaeren - €11 million
It is no secret that Anderlecht have played a significant role in the development of Belgian football. They have produced and supplied top-class talent to the national team and various European clubs.
Yari Verschaeren is another addition to the list of talented Belgian players who represented Anderlecht in their youth. The attacking midfielder has been hailed by many as one who could be the face of the Belgian national team in the years to come.
Roberto Martinez handed the youngster his senior debut for the national side at the age of just 18.
Verschaeren has so far made six senior appearances for Belgium. He won the young Belgian Player of the Year award in his senior debut season with Anderlecht, and his stock has been on the rise since then.
The 19-year-old is technically gifted, and agile which, coupled with his impressive ball control, helps him glide on the pitch. Verschaeren is a great asset for teams that play possession-based football, as he likes to keep the ball and is a great passer.
In 97 appearances for Anderlecht across competitions, the midfielder has recorded 17 assists and as many goals.
#2 Jeremy Doku - €25 million
Stade Rennes forward Jeremy Doku is the second-most valuable U-21 Belgian player right now. He is also an Anderlecht graduate, and debuted for the club's senior team in 2018.
The winger had a successful 2019-20 campaign with Anderlecht, during which he made 27 appearances across competitions. He was signed by Ligue 1 club Rennes in October 2020 for €26 million.
Doku is a very entertaining player, as he has lots of tricks up his sleeve. Big things are expected of him, but despite the flare he possesses, his game remains a work in progress. His tally of four goals and five assists in 49 appearances for Rennes across competitions is underwhelming, considering the talent he has.
The 19-year-old will have to learn to make the most of the opportunities he gets. He has made ten appearances for the Belgium senior team thus far, bagging two goals and three assists.
#1 Charles De Ketelaere - €27 million
The versatile Club Brugge attacker Charles De Ketelaere is the most expensive Belgian U-21 player right now. Football wasn't the 20-year old's first sport, though. At ten, he showed signs of becoming a promising tennis player. However, he switched sports, and it is quite evident that he does not miss tennis anymore.
Since signing his first professional contract with his boyhood club in 2019, the player has made 105 appearances for the senior team across competitions. There is no outfield position where De Ketelaere cannot play in. He has been utilised as a winger, central midfielder and even left-back.
The youngster has a great sense of game awareness, and keeps himself composed in the most daunting of situations. The centre-forward is enjoying his most prolific spell currently, having scored ten goals and provided seven assists in 25 Jupiler Pro League games.
De Ketelaere was handed his national debut for the Belgian team back in November 2020. He featured in the UEFA Nations League third-place play-off against Italy as a substitute, where he opened his account for his country in a 2-1 defeat.