"A phenomenon" according to one midfield predecessor, RSC Anderlecht's stylish 17-year-old Youri Tielemans is shaping up to be the Belgian Frank Lampard.
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UEFA.com's latest weekly wonderkid is a Belgian cub growing fast into a tigerish midfielder. Meet RSC Anderlecht's Youri Tielemans.
They say …
"Tielemans is a phenomenon. There are not many players better than him."
Pär Zetterberg, former Anderlecht playmaker
"We have always known Tielemans was a super talent. Whenever anyone asked me who I thought would go far, I would mention his name first."
Mohammed Ouahbi, Anderlecht youth coach
"With his skills and quality, he forces opponents into mistakes. He can play the long ball and launch attacks. His age is not important. He will only get better with playing matches."
Paul van Himst, Anderlecht and Belgium great
Born in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, not far from Anderlecht, Tielemans has been on the club's radar since he was five, working his way through the youth ranks playing as a No10. He made his first-team debut on 28 July 2013 in a First League match against KSC Lokeren 0V, less than three months after his 16th birthday. On 2 October of the same year he became the youngest Belgian to feature in the UEFA Champions League – and the third youngest player ever – starting against Olympiacos FC aged 16 years and 148 days. Voted Belgium's young player of the year in June 2014, he was also named the nation's most promising newcomer in January 2015.
Playing style …
Currently being deployed as holding midfielder, Tielemans specialised in a more attacking role in the youth ranks, making him an excellent box-to-box player. Technique, speed, timing and the ability to supply killer passes with either foot make him a dangerous opponent, and he is also handy from set pieces. His insight and leadership skills, meanwhile, have only intensified interest in the 17-year-old.
Shades of …
The head of Anderlecht's youth department Jean Kindermans likened Tielemans to Axel Witsel – others have seen parallels with Frank Lampard. Tielemans himself has said Zinédine Zidane is his footballing idol.
Eureka moment …
Tielemans was on the losing side on his league debut against Lokeren but, despite the 3-2 defeat, much of the post-match chat centred around the top flight's fourth-youngest debutant. Aged 16 years and 82 days, Tielemans' dribbling and passing signalled his talent, and fans have been talking about him in hushed tones ever since.
Best-case scenario …
With the experienced Steven Defour as his partner in central midfield, Tielemans is in a great position to learn. Many see him as an Anderlecht captain in waiting – provided the Brussels club can keep hold of him.
He says …
"Sometimes the older players like Silvio Proto or Olivier Deschacht say to me, 'Hey, you were only born yesterday', but it's just banter. A few years ago I was watching these boys on TV – now I am one of them. It's amazing!"