Belgium

Eden Hazard
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Eden Hazard training, aims to be ready for next Real Madrid match (video)

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Eden Hazard’s first Real Madrid season looked cut short by surgery, but the Belgian playmaker has matches on the menu should La Liga return.

Hazard, 29, underwent ankle surgery in early March in what was the scheduled end of a disappointing debut season at the Bernabeu.

He has one goal and five assists in 15 matches, missing the start of the season with a hamstring injury and 2.5 months with a broken foot before the final ankle injury in a 1-0 loss at Levante on Feb. 22.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Hazard is doing fine now, and hopes to be at full power when and if Real returns to the field this summer (The club is also down 2-1 to Man City after one leg in the Champions League, which seeks an August resumption).

“I’m very happy,” Hazard said. “After two months out I need more fitness and more with the ball. I just want to be ready for the next game.”

It’s been a good few days for the Hazards, as younger brother Thorgan made the most of his last-minute start for an injured Giovanni Reyna in Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 derby win over Schalke.

Little brothers Kylian (24) and Ethan (16) are done for the season. Kylian made 28 appearances with a goal and three assists for Cercle Brugge in Belgium’s top division, while Ethan is in the academy at Tubize where his three brothers got their starts before moving to France.

And that’s your Hazard roundup.

Club Brugge named champions as Belgium votes to end season

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Club Brugge have been named the champions of Belgium as clubs voted to end the 2019-20 season with European spots and one relegation for Waasland-Beveren also confirmed.

The decision has long been coming after clubs and the league agreed in April to end the current campaign without further games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, after a lengthy delay an official vote only took place on May 15 and clubs decided to name Club Brugge champions and settle the rest of the table by leaving it as it was. Club Brugge will now be in the UEFA Champions League group stage next season, while Gent will be in the UCL third qualifying round and Charleroi will be in the Europa League group stage.

Antwerp will join the Europa League in the third qualifying round and Standard Liege in the second. Genk and Anderlecht finished in seventh and eighth respectively and miss out on European qualification. Club Brugge were 15 points clear at the top with one game of the regular season to go, as the Belgian league then splits into a top and bottom half playoff format for the remainder of the season.

The decision to award a champion and end the season with the table as it is is different from other leagues around Europe, as in France’s Ligue 1 they decided to use a points-per-game to end the 2019-20 season due to the French government postponing professional sports until September. The Dutch government also stopped pro sports, even in empty stadiums, until Sept. 1 but the Dutch Eredivisie decided to cancel the season as no champions were declared and no promotion and relegation was permitted.

As for Italy, Spain and England, all three aim to restart their top-flight leagues in June, while the Bundesliga in Germany is of course returning to action this weekend.

All of these countries in Europe are so close to one another geographically but given the different situations in each nation due to the coronavirus pandemic, leagues are coming to very different decisions.

City Football Group adds Belgian side as ninth club

City Football Group
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Belgian second division side Lommel SK is celebrating its addition the City Football Group.

Manchester City’s got a new friend in the group, giving City enough peers for a baseball starting lineup.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

City and Lommel are in a group with Girona (Spain), New York City FC (MLS), Melbourne City FC (Australia), Montevideo City (Uruguay), Mumbai City (India), Yokohama FC Marinos (Japan), and Sichuan Jiuniu (China).

Lommel was sixth in the Belgian second tier when the season was paused for the coronavirus pandemic. The club’s predecessors played in the top flight, and Lommel has been the home of Belgian national teamer Hans Vanaken.

From The Manchester Evening News, here’s CFG chief executive Ferran Soriano:

“Belgium is one of Europe’s best football countries as demonstrated by the success of the national team and the development of world-class players, some of whom we know very well, like Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany. This investment is part of our long-term strategy to be present in key football countries, play beautiful football and develop talent.”

The group’s growth hasn’t just been about competition and development. It’s also made money, as CFG posted a $100 million profit on NYCFC from the 2018-19 season (Forbes.com).

[ MORE: American investor looks to recreate City Football Group ]

Transfer rumor roundup: Meunier to Spurs, Newcastle linked with trio

transfer rumor roundup
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Soon-to-be free agent Thomas Meunier is being linked with a move to North London.

The sought-after Belgian defender, 28, has been with Paris Saint-Germain since a 2016 move from Club Brugge.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Meunier has been linked to Manchester United and Everton since the start of 2019, but Spurs are said to be leading the race according to Le Parisien.

Also carrying 40 Belgian caps with seven goals, Meunier is a third-place finisher at the World Cup and has won three Ligue 1 crowns.

Separate reports have added Chelsea and Juventus to Meunier’s list of suitors, as transfer fee-free players could be all the rage this summer as teams monitor their budgets during the coronavirus pandemic.


Newcastle United continues to be linked with nearly every player under the sun.

James Rodriguez is the latest, the Colombian star looking for a home away from Real Madrid.

James will cost around $34 million, and has also been linked with a bevy of clubs including MLS new boys Inter Miami CF.

And while Manchester United fans wait to see whether Shanghai Shenhua will allow Odion Ighalo to extend his loan, Newcastle is said to be open to meeting the Chinese Super League side’s $23 million asking price for a permanent deal.

Ighalo, who turns 31 in June, has fit the bill as a fill-in striker for the Red Devils, who had lost Marcus Rashford to injury. He has four goals in eight appearances for United after 46 goals in three seasons abroad.

The Magpies have a star goalkeeper in Martin Dubravka, but they are also being linked with a massive $56 million bid for Benfica star Odysseas Vlachodimos.

The 26-year-old Greek backstop has 16 clean sheets this season and six caps for his national team.

Vertonghen: Free agents coveted during coronavirus pandemic

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Jan Vertonghen has discussed his future at Tottenham and it is safe to say the Belgium defender is keeping his options open.

Very open.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Speaking to Belgian TV channel Play Sports, Vertonghen (who has a contract at Tottenham until July 1) revealed he has had several offers from clubs across Europe and believes he will be a man in demand when the summer transfer window opens.

“I want to sign with the right club. It could be Spurs, or another club,” Vertonghen said. “I really want to continue at top level for a few more years and I would like to play European football next season. Since January, a number of clubs have come forward with serious proposals.

“The Spanish and Italian leagues are the most obvious for the time being, but I will keep all options open. I’m free, of course, and many clubs don’t have the money to do transfers. Transfer-free players like me are even more coveted in the coronavirus crisis.”

He does have a very, very good point.

Finances are taking a battering across the world, not just in soccer, but it is quite clear clubs are no longer able, or willing, to pay huge transfer fees for new players. That means the likes of free agents Vertonghen, Pedro, Ryan Fraser, Adam Lallana, Willian and Olivier Giroud will be in demand when the summer window opens.

Vertonghen, 32, seems to have run his course at Tottenham and he’s had a fine eight seasons with Spurs. Jose Mourinho doesn’t seem to rate him and it seems as though he’s lost pace by the bucketload almost overnight. He has previously been linked with a move to Inter Milan and his former club Ajax.

Being out of contract this summer is a risk but it is expected players will sign short-term monthly deals to see them through until the end of the 2019-20 season instead of their contracts ending on the usual July 1 deadline.

Vertonghen has a few more seasons left in the tank but his time at Tottenham is almost certainly up.