Anderlecht midfielder Dennis Praet wins Golden Boot

Summary

Dennis Praet, the Anderlecht midfielder from Leuven who started his football career when he was eight years old, is Belgium’s best footballer of 2014

“Unbelievable honour”

Anderlecht’s mercurial midfielder Dennis Praet has won the Gouden Schoen, or Golden Boot, as Belgium’s footballer of the year. The 20-year-old won beat Club Brugge midfielder Víctor Vázquez in the vote by a panel of sports journalists and Royal Belgian Football Association authorities. Lokeren’s Hans Vanaken came third.

“It is an unbelievable honour to receive this award,” said Praet (pictured), as he also paid tribute to Junior Malanda, the Belgian youth international from VfL Wolfsburg, who died in a car accident last weekend.

Praet, from Leuven, was just eight years old when he joined the Genk youth team, before Anderlecht plucked him away in 2010. His senior career began just a year later, and he has scored 21 times in 125 appearances for Anderlecht. He received his first international call up in November.

English champions Manchester City have already inquired about signing him, although Praet has questioned whether such a move would give him many chances to play. “I might be better off joining a medium-sized team in a great league,” he said recently. Italian giants Juventus, Germany’s Borussia Dortmund, Spain’s Valencia and English side Arsenal have also been linked with him.

The Golden Boot awards named Praet’s Anderlecht clubmate Youri Tielemans Talent of the Year, while their coach Besnik Hasi was elected Coach of the Year. Club Brugge’s Mathew Ryan took the prize of Goalkeeper of the Year, and Chelsea and Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois retained his title of Best Belgian Player Abroad.

Flemish football

Reaping the benefits of their improved youth academies, Flemish football clubs have become reasonably successful in European competitions in recent years and many players routinely join leading European clubs.
Players - Famous players from Brussels and Flanders include Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Thomas Vermaelen.
Clubs - Some of the best-known local clubs include KV Mechelen, Zulte Waregem, AA Ghent and Club Brugge.
Anderlecht - The Brussels-based RSC Anderlecht is the only Belgian club in the 2013-2014 Uefa Champions League.
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football first appears in Flanders

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Flemish clubs in top national division

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million euros in subsidies from the Flemish government to renovate football stadiums in 2013