21 Midfielder Anderlecht Belgium
When Dennis Praet is playing well, he is a lovely footballer to watch. Neat and tidy on the ball, a wonderful eye for a pass and that enviable knack of slotting into space between the lines, Praet can torment opposition teams. When he isn’t playing well, then things aren’t so easy.
For now the 21 year-old remains an inconsistent performer and a figure of frustration. This time last year he was starting to make us look silly for leaving him off The 100 in 2013 after a disappointing 12 months.
2015 has been...
It all looked to be going so well when he scored five times in six league matches to bring 2014 to a close; and then he got a back injury. Dennis made an impression on the Champions League with one goal and a couple of assists during the group stages and had just started to be a consistent source of goals and assists in the league.
After being heralded as an 18 year-old three years ago thanks to a string of impressive displays, the early months of last season looked like a sure sign that everything was clicking nicely into place and he was starting to play at his best. He created chances, pulled the strings in the Anderlecht attack and got the team moving. He made his full international debut for Belgium at the end of last year but thanks to the aforementioned injury, he stuttered through the rest of the season.
Another year on and he hasn’t been able to replicate the encouraging displays of 2014. He missed the first quarter of this calendar year and in truth hasn’t got going since. He is yet to recapture the freedom that had him drawing headlines each and every weekend in December. His inconsistency remains the issue. There are flashes that he is set to dominate a full season for the Purple and White but flashes aren’t enough for a team under pressure to prove last season’s third place finish in the Jupiler League was merely a blip.
Dennis still looks like a scrawny teenager. Thankfully his lack of size is the only major drawback. Everything else points to him having the perfect concoction of abilities to become one of the best playmakers in Europe.
His defensive work rate does need to be improved if he is going to slot into any side that tries to play an effective pressing game; but he will never ever been the sort of player tasked with carrying out a defensive job. His responsibilities will always lie at the other end of the football pitch where his intelligence on the ball can pick holes in defences and his comfort in possession should see him leading counter attacks.
The quick adaption of players such as Douglas Costa to a major league after seemingly going ‘stale’ in a small European league should encourage Praet to continue playing regular football in Belgium rather than accepting the uncertainty of being a squad player elsewhere. The move to one of the big five competitions will always be on the cards, thanks to the potential he still shows.
C- Shake it off and go again…
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