Belgium is a small nation from the west of Europe that has long been one of the true soccer powerhouses on the continent. Their golden generation may be over, but the red devils have had some world-class players in the past.
Today we will be discussing the best Belgian players of all time, with players from across the field all making the cut.
10. Thibaut Courtois
One of the leading lights of the latest so-called ‘golden generation’ of Belgian soccer players, Thibaut Courtois is renowned for being one of the best goalkeepers in the world right now.
Having plied his trade at numerous top clubs, Courtois is currently the first-choice keeper at the famous Real Madrid and has won many top honors with the Spanish side.
For his country, Courtois has been the number one for some time now and has represented Belgium at a handful of major tournaments and has performed well at all of them.
Whilst he may be known for his on-field exploits around the world, Courtois is perhaps best known in Belgium for his secret affair with teammate Kevin De Bruyne’s then-girlfriend.
This affair tore a hole in the Belgian camp and has never really been repaired, with the two apparently still at odds with each other today.
9. Jan Ceulemans
From one of the nation’s most capped players of all time to another, attacking midfielder Jan Ceulemans is one of the most popular players to have ever pulled on the red jersey of Belgium. Ceulemans played for Belgium between 1977 and 1991, making an impressive 96 appearances during this time.
Ceulemans was best known for his goalscoring prowess at the club level, where he only ever played for two clubs. Most notably though, Ceulemans was a star at the biggest club in his home country, Club Bruges as he made over 400 appearances for the blue and black in which he scored 191 goals.
For Belgium, he was less prolific but still registered 23 goals across his lengthy spell in the national team. Since retiring, Ceulemans has gone into management and took charge of many Belgian clubs up until 2015 and he is still living in the country.
8. Dries Mertens
For me, one of the most talented soccer players of the most recent crop of Belgian talent, Dries Mertens is an amazing winger/forward to have featured for anyone in the past decade.
Mertens is perhaps most well known for his time spent outside of Belgium, with him long being one of the most important players for Italian club Napoli where he won a handful of domestic honors and scored over 100 goals.
Mertens is currently still conducting his club career outside of his native Belgium and currently plays for Turkish giants Galatasaray.
During his time playing for the national team Mertens has notched 21 goals which takes him onto the list as one of the top goal-scorers his country has ever had.
7. Wilfried van Moer
Next up on our list is a player that you may not be very familiar with if you are reading this outside of Belgium, Wilfried van Moer was one of the finest Belgian players of the 20th century but never played outside of his home country at club level.
Van Moer began his career in his hometown of Beveren and is still widely popular at the club having played for them in two separate spells.
Alongside his time in Beveren, van Moer also featured for clubs such as Antwerp and Standard de Liège and duly took home the golden shoe award for top goal scorer in Belgium three times during his career. Not too bad for a midfielder.
For Belgium, van Moer played during a rather up-and-down period for the country in terms of success. At the 1970 World Cup the Belgians only won one match, but then converted this into an impressive semi-final berth at the 1972 European Championships.
Van Moer’s international career spanned three decades, with him making 57 appearances and scoring 9 goals.
6. Romelu Lukaku
Okay, so this guy you probably already know plenty about. The big striker Romelu Lukaku has long been one of the poster boys of the Belgian national team and has now been the spearhead of the golden generation for many tournaments.
Known for being one of the strongest soccer players in the world, Lukaku has been playing for Belgium since 2010, making over 100 appearances for the red devils and scoring 68 goals making him the all-time leading scorer for the country.
Lukaku’s playing career has been filled with criticism from all sides of the soccer world as many have claimed that he is too overweight to be a success and that he has commanded price tags much higher than his actual worth.
Lukaku is currently the most expensive player of all time if you add up the combined fees paid for him by the various clubs he has signed for.
The striker currently plays on loan for Italian giants Inter Milan has returned to the club following a difficult second spell with London-based club Chelsea.
It hasn’t been an easy career for Lukaku, but one thing is for sure, when he is on form he will bring you goals.
5. Jan Vertonghen
For some soccer fans, Jan Vertonghen is one of the most underrated defenders of the 21st century. The Belgian is reliable and strong, two qualities that are vital for a top defender in the modern game as well as having a level head that allows him to read the game well.
Tottenham fans will already know all of this, with Vertonghen being considered a legend at the north London club by many of their fans.
Whilst with Tottenham, Vertonghen made over 200 appearances across an 8 year stay in the English capital whilst also registering 6 goals for the club.
Vertonghen has since returned to Belgium with a Vincent Kompany managed Anderlecht side having spent some time with Benfica in Portugal.
For Belgium, Vertonghen formed part of the strongest defensive line the country may have ever had.
Alongside players such as Kompany and then Tottenham teammate Toby Alderweireld, Vertonghen was a vital component of the Belgian team.
4. Kevin De Bruyne
A man that may soon be at the top of this list, Kevin De Bruyne is undoubtedly the most talented player of the Belgian contingent and has been for some time now.
The silky central midfielder currently plays for English juggernauts Manchester City and is part of the best team the ‘Citizens’ have ever had, De Bruyne serves up plenty of goals and assists for his team helped in part by the finishing of one Erling Haaland.
De Bruyne has made 94 appearances for Belgian as of right now and has scored 25 goals, putting him well on the way to being one of the leading scorers of all time.
As we mentioned earlier, it hasn’t been plain sailing for De Bruyne as tension with teammate Thibaut Courtois still lingers in the air following their public fallout over the latter’s affair with De Bruyne’s then-girlfriend.
3. Jean Marie Pfaff
The only player on this list other than Courtois to have never registered an international goal for Belgium, Jean-Marie Pfaff was a crucial part of the first golden generation of Belgian players back in the 1980s.
Pfaff played as a goalkeeper during his long career and was a mainstay in the national team for many years, carrying them through a series of impressive tournament displays though never won any honors with his country.
His club career was spent largely inside his home country, with Pfaff becoming a legend at his first club Beveren having made over 300 appearances for the club during a decade-long stay there.
Following this Pfaff made the move over to Germany where he would feature for Bayern Munich for some time, making a further 156 appearances whilst in Munich.
For Belgium, Pfaff made 67 appearances and appeared in two consecutive World Cups for his country. Pfaff also briefly went into management with KV Oostende but left his role in 1999 having joined the club only a year earlier.
2. Vincent Kompany
Now one of the most prominent managers in Belgium, Vincent Kompany is of course more well known for his time on the pitch right now having been an imperious central defender during his playing career.
Kompany was known for his no-nonsense style of play as well as being a tough tackler and impressive header of the ball.
Kompany played for three different clubs over the course of his career, though is most famous for his time with Manchester City.
The defender spent the majority of his best years with the citizens and played for them 265 times across over a decade in Manchester, Kompany also scored 18 times for the club including a legendary long-range effort to effectively win them the title in 2019.
For Belgium, Kompany would have liked to enjoy the same level of success that he experienced at club level but could never lead his country to any major triumphs.
Like many in this team, his best performance came in the 2018 World Cup where Belgium took 3rd place.
1. Paul Van Himst
It may surprise you to see that a player from the current batch of Belgian talent hasn’t managed to top my list, but the former leading goal scorer for the country is so well-loved in Belgium that he deserves to retain the top spot for now at least.
Paul Van Himst was a phenomenal striker in his prime, proving this with his impressive tally 233 goals for Anderlecht where he would spend the majority of his playing career. Van Himst did also play for two other teams briefly but is known for his time with the Brussels-based club.
For his country, Van Himst was equally as important as he scored 30 goals during a 14-year international career. The striker’s best finish in a major tournament came in the 1972 European Championships where he was part of the squad that finished in 3rd place.
Van Himst would later go on to manage the national team for a short time, taking them to the 1994 World Cup in the United States.