By Berend Scholten
For Belgian champions Club Brugge KV it has been a summer of change.
As if coach Trond Sollied's departure for Greek side Olympiacos CFP was not enough upheaval, they also had to deal with captain Timmy Simons disembarking the good ship Brugge for Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven.
The exit of their Norwegian coach will probably hit the club the hardest. Sollied, who masterminded one of the most successful eras in the team's history, joined Brugge in the summer of 2000 from KAA Gent. In his five years at the club the 46-year-old stamped his unique brand of football on Belgian football, encouraging his side to adopt a physical approach with a tremendous team mentality.
It paid off too as Brugge won the championship in 2002/03 and 2004/05 along with the Belgium Cup in 2002 and 2004. But, with Sollied moving on, Brugge knew they too must move on swiftly – and they did exactly that, appointing Belgium legend Jan Ceulemans as their new coach.
"We were prepared for it to happen one day," technical director Marc Degryse told uefa.com. "We knew it would be this season or next. The first training day of the season was the symbolic start of a new era. I think we solved this in a quick and efficient way and, who knows, maybe the change will be for the good of the club."
What Ceulemans brings to Brugge is plenty of experience. He still holds the Belgian record for international caps (96). He is also very familiar with the surroundings having played for the club between 1978 and 1992, captaining the side to three league titles and two cup wins. He was also named Belgium Player of the year in 1981, 1985 and 1986 – the latter after helping his country to fourth place at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.
Ceuleman, now 48, arrives from fellow Belgian side KVC Westerlo with whom he won the Belgium Cup in 2001 and he will be ably assisted by another Brugge and Belgium legend Franky Van der Elst. The principal goal for Ceulemans is reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage.
"It will be a totally new experience for me," said Ceulemans. "From other people I heard it is something really special. I have experienced the magic of European Cup evenings in the past but the Champions League seems to be even more special. If we reach the group stage it will also benefit us both financially and domestically in the long term."
With Simons departed, one of the first decisions Ceulemans had to make was to appoint a new captain and that role went to former skipper Gert Verheyen – and the Belgian international is delighted with his new responsibility. "Under Sollied I would never have been captain again," he said. "But now I am taking this job with a lot of pleasure and will relish the responsibility."
With a new coach and captain in place, the club set about their final task of bringing in some new blood. In came midfielders Ivan Leko, Sven Vermant and Grégory Dufer, with defender Joos Valgaeren the final piece of the jigsaw.
"We just want the season to start now," said Ceulemans. With so much experience on both the playing and coaching front, it is hard to back against Ceulemans continuing where Sollied left off.
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