Can Spurs star Nacer Chadli be Belgium’s best?
Belgium (14/1 to win Euro 2016 with Coral) were the envy of many a nation during the World Cup. They may have crashed out of the competition in the quarter-finals, but the Red Devils boast some of the most exciting young stars, and as yet unfulfilled potential, in Europe.
A conveyor belt of top quality talent in almost every position, producing the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard, Adnan Januzaj and Romelu Lukaku could make them a real force to be reckoned with at Euro 2016 and beyond.
Chelsea star Hazard is the name on most people’s lips as the one to lead Belgium to success. However, perhaps it is in north London, not west, that Belgium’s present and future truly lies.
Tottenham’s Nacer Chadli, who also once represented Morocco in a friendly, has been dazzling the White Hart Lane faithful this term, after navigating a rocky start to life in the Premier League. The 25-year-old has stepped up for Spurs, taking games by the scruff of the neck, and deserves a chance to seize his moment in the spotlight at international level too.
Chadli has long been in the shadow of Hazard, his flashier west London counterpart, but has been much more effective than his lauded compatriot so far this season.
Perhaps Belgium’s future, and current tactics, should be built around Chadli instead then, easing the burden on prodigious talent Hazard, who often appears to be weighed down by expectation.
As Spurs top scorer, with four goals in five Premier League games, Chadli is thriving as part of a flexible attack. Taking a leading role for his side in the north London derby, the wing wizard has illustrated he is a man for the big games.
It is all a far cry from last season, Chadli’s first in the Premier League, when the former Twente attacker struggled to settle and, despite making 34 appearances in all competitions, failed to carve out a role for himself.
With rumours circulating that the Belgium international was to be included in numerous swap deals, Chadli’s future looked more than uncertain. However, new coach Mauricio Pochettino seems to have found out how to extract the best from the Liege-born talent.
Despite his underwhelming first campaign in north London, Red Devils coach Marc Wilmots elected to take Chadli to Brazil, realising the value of his goal threat and versatility to the squad. The Spurs star has 25 caps now, and has netted four times for his nation, but, if his current rich vein of form is anything to go by, he can offer much more.
After already illustrating his goal-scoring prowess for Twente, where he hit home 12 times in his last season for the Eredivisie club, Chadli now has the opportunity to take over the mantle of leading man for his nation.
Hazard has failed to sparkle consistently for Chelsea this term, playing second-fiddle to the dynamic duo of new singings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas. It is his international form where the pressure seems to truly take its toll on the superstar, though, with the tricky 23-year-old often looking a pale imitation of himself in a Red Devils shirt.
With the once seemingly unstoppable rise of Adnan Januzaj stalling at Manchester United, Romelu Lukaku not yet firing on all cylinders for Everton and clubmate Kevin Mirallas sidelined, Chadli now has the chance to cement a starring role with Belgium.
The upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against minnows Andorra and Bosnia-Herzegovina certainly present an ideal opportunity for Chadli to stake his claim, and emerge as his country’s main man going forward.
At 25, he can be Belgium’s leading light in both the short and long term, but may have force his way into being centre of attention at the Red Devils camp for the time being. Considering his recent exploits, Chadli is more than up for the challenge.