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Interview

All Hail The King

Known as King Charles by Club Brugge supporters, attacking midfielder Charles De Ketelaere is commanding attention as Belgium’s next big thing

WORDS Chris Burke | INTERVIEW Alyssa Saliou | PORTRAIT Kris Van Exel

A long road to Champions League football? In the literal sense, for Club Brugge youngster Charles De Ketelaere, it is actually just “500 metres or thereabouts”. This, after all, is the distance from his team’s Jan Breydelstadion to the house he grew up in and still shares with his mother, Isabelle. He may now be a senior Belgian international, already hailed as King Charles in his native country, yet his youth as a wide-eyed Club fan is so recent that he still has the posters on his bedroom wall to prove it.

“I’ve had that room for a long time so those posters have been there for a while,” he says. “I’ve also got posters of other players, not just from Club Brugge. As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they’re still there.”

"As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they're still there. I've also got posters of other players. Not just from Club Brugge"


They serve also as a reminder of how far he has come – figuratively speaking, of course. It has only been a few years since De Ketelaere, then an academy hopeful, served as a wide-eyed Jan Breydelstadion ballboy. “It seemed so far away then,” he says of the dream of playing first-team football. “When I was about 14 I had a season ticket for about three years, together with my brother and a couple of friends. I went every week.”

Imagine, then, the thrill of morphing from being part of the crowd to crowd favourite. “It’s definitely still a special feeling. In the beginning it was a dream come true. When I was playing in the Club Brugge youth academy, my brother and friends said it’d be great if I got to play in the stadium. It was something I didn’t believe was possible. It came true though, so it’s something to be proud of, being from Bruges. It’s becoming a bit more normal but it’ll always be special.”

Special is one of the adjectives increasingly ascribed to this elegant and versatile 20-year-old who illuminates matches with his deftness of touch. Indeed he is emerging as his nation’s next big thing, having already taken his place alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens in the national team. Belgium’s future beyond the golden generation is looking bright.

A long road to Champions League football? In the literal sense, for Club Brugge youngster Charles De Ketelaere, it is actually just “500 metres or thereabouts”. This, after all, is the distance from his team’s Jan Breydelstadion to the house he grew up in and still shares with his mother, Isabelle. He may now be a senior Belgian international, already hailed as King Charles in his native country, yet his youth as a wide-eyed Club fan is so recent that he still has the posters on his bedroom wall to prove it.

“I’ve had that room for a long time so those posters have been there for a while,” he says. “I’ve also got posters of other players, not just from Club Brugge. As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they’re still there.”

"As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they're still there. I've also got posters of other players. Not just from Club Brugge"


They serve also as a reminder of how far he has come – figuratively speaking, of course. It has only been a few years since De Ketelaere, then an academy hopeful, served as a wide-eyed Jan Breydelstadion ballboy. “It seemed so far away then,” he says of the dream of playing first-team football. “When I was about 14 I had a season ticket for about three years, together with my brother and a couple of friends. I went every week.”

Imagine, then, the thrill of morphing from being part of the crowd to crowd favourite. “It’s definitely still a special feeling. In the beginning it was a dream come true. When I was playing in the Club Brugge youth academy, my brother and friends said it’d be great if I got to play in the stadium. It was something I didn’t believe was possible. It came true though, so it’s something to be proud of, being from Bruges. It’s becoming a bit more normal but it’ll always be special.”

Special is one of the adjectives increasingly ascribed to this elegant and versatile 20-year-old who illuminates matches with his deftness of touch. Indeed he is emerging as his nation’s next big thing, having already taken his place alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens in the national team. Belgium’s future beyond the golden generation is looking bright.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

De Ketelaere, deployed mostly up front by Club this season, is being tipped to take over one day as the Red Devils’ creative heartbeat. He certainly has the tools of a classic No10. Despite his height (191cm) he has top-drawer technique and distribution, a knack for dribbling and an uncommonly quick football brain, hence his billing as De Bruyne’s natural heir. The youngster, however, has said that he does not know which position he will ultimately lock down.

De Ketelaere made his senior debut in a Belgian Cup game against amateur side Francs Borains in September 2019, but within a month was facing Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. “That was even more special,” he says. “Making your debut against Francs Borains is great, of course, and I’ll never forget that, but making my debut at the Jan Breydelstadion in the Champions League is something I’ll never forget. With all the fans, that gave me goosebumps.”

Club Brugge suffered a 5-0 loss that night, but it was a very different story when the teams were reunited this September. This time, with De Ketelaere popping up all over the pitch and leading the hosts’ pressing efforts, Philippe Clement’s side secured a 1-1 draw – despite a daunting Paris forward line of Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Lionel Messi. De Ketelaere outshone them all.

Two weeks later he supplied the assist for Hans Vanaken’s equaliser in a 2-1 victory at Leipzig. Then, in October, came his maiden goal for Belgium on just his second appearance, in a 2-1 Nations League loss to Italy. Fittingly that landmark strike was set up by De Bruyne – the player with whom he is most often compared.

Like De Bruyne, who left Genk for Chelsea in 2012, De Ketelaere may soon be tempted abroad. For now though Bruges – with its quaint medieval charm and constant reminders of childhood – is keeping him grounded. No small matter when you’ve been hailed as the fresh hope of an entire nation, yet are reputed to be shy and wary of chasing fame. “I regularly take a walk around the city,” he says, recommending the chips he used to tuck into from the market and his favourite treats from “excellent chocolatier” Dominique Persoone. He adds: “There are historical buildings, and that’s nice when you stroll around. There’s also the heritage, so the buildings have character, and that’s the thing about Bruges: the character remains.” Happily, the same can be said of De Ketelaere.

A long road to Champions League football? In the literal sense, for Club Brugge youngster Charles De Ketelaere, it is actually just “500 metres or thereabouts”. This, after all, is the distance from his team’s Jan Breydelstadion to the house he grew up in and still shares with his mother, Isabelle. He may now be a senior Belgian international, already hailed as King Charles in his native country, yet his youth as a wide-eyed Club fan is so recent that he still has the posters on his bedroom wall to prove it.

“I’ve had that room for a long time so those posters have been there for a while,” he says. “I’ve also got posters of other players, not just from Club Brugge. As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they’re still there.”

"As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they're still there. I've also got posters of other players. Not just from Club Brugge"


They serve also as a reminder of how far he has come – figuratively speaking, of course. It has only been a few years since De Ketelaere, then an academy hopeful, served as a wide-eyed Jan Breydelstadion ballboy. “It seemed so far away then,” he says of the dream of playing first-team football. “When I was about 14 I had a season ticket for about three years, together with my brother and a couple of friends. I went every week.”

Imagine, then, the thrill of morphing from being part of the crowd to crowd favourite. “It’s definitely still a special feeling. In the beginning it was a dream come true. When I was playing in the Club Brugge youth academy, my brother and friends said it’d be great if I got to play in the stadium. It was something I didn’t believe was possible. It came true though, so it’s something to be proud of, being from Bruges. It’s becoming a bit more normal but it’ll always be special.”

Special is one of the adjectives increasingly ascribed to this elegant and versatile 20-year-old who illuminates matches with his deftness of touch. Indeed he is emerging as his nation’s next big thing, having already taken his place alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens in the national team. Belgium’s future beyond the golden generation is looking bright.

All Hail The King
Interview

All Hail The King

Known as King Charles by Club Brugge supporters, attacking midfielder Charles De Ketelaere is commanding attention as Belgium’s next big thing

WORDS Chris Burke | INTERVIEW Alyssa Saliou | PORTRAIT Kris Van Exel

A long road to Champions League football? In the literal sense, for Club Brugge youngster Charles De Ketelaere, it is actually just “500 metres or thereabouts”. This, after all, is the distance from his team’s Jan Breydelstadion to the house he grew up in and still shares with his mother, Isabelle. He may now be a senior Belgian international, already hailed as King Charles in his native country, yet his youth as a wide-eyed Club fan is so recent that he still has the posters on his bedroom wall to prove it.

“I’ve had that room for a long time so those posters have been there for a while,” he says. “I’ve also got posters of other players, not just from Club Brugge. As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they’re still there.”

"As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they're still there. I've also got posters of other players. Not just from Club Brugge"


They serve also as a reminder of how far he has come – figuratively speaking, of course. It has only been a few years since De Ketelaere, then an academy hopeful, served as a wide-eyed Jan Breydelstadion ballboy. “It seemed so far away then,” he says of the dream of playing first-team football. “When I was about 14 I had a season ticket for about three years, together with my brother and a couple of friends. I went every week.”

Imagine, then, the thrill of morphing from being part of the crowd to crowd favourite. “It’s definitely still a special feeling. In the beginning it was a dream come true. When I was playing in the Club Brugge youth academy, my brother and friends said it’d be great if I got to play in the stadium. It was something I didn’t believe was possible. It came true though, so it’s something to be proud of, being from Bruges. It’s becoming a bit more normal but it’ll always be special.”

Special is one of the adjectives increasingly ascribed to this elegant and versatile 20-year-old who illuminates matches with his deftness of touch. Indeed he is emerging as his nation’s next big thing, having already taken his place alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens in the national team. Belgium’s future beyond the golden generation is looking bright.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

A long road to Champions League football? In the literal sense, for Club Brugge youngster Charles De Ketelaere, it is actually just “500 metres or thereabouts”. This, after all, is the distance from his team’s Jan Breydelstadion to the house he grew up in and still shares with his mother, Isabelle. He may now be a senior Belgian international, already hailed as King Charles in his native country, yet his youth as a wide-eyed Club fan is so recent that he still has the posters on his bedroom wall to prove it.

“I’ve had that room for a long time so those posters have been there for a while,” he says. “I’ve also got posters of other players, not just from Club Brugge. As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they’re still there.”

"As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they're still there. I've also got posters of other players. Not just from Club Brugge"


They serve also as a reminder of how far he has come – figuratively speaking, of course. It has only been a few years since De Ketelaere, then an academy hopeful, served as a wide-eyed Jan Breydelstadion ballboy. “It seemed so far away then,” he says of the dream of playing first-team football. “When I was about 14 I had a season ticket for about three years, together with my brother and a couple of friends. I went every week.”

Imagine, then, the thrill of morphing from being part of the crowd to crowd favourite. “It’s definitely still a special feeling. In the beginning it was a dream come true. When I was playing in the Club Brugge youth academy, my brother and friends said it’d be great if I got to play in the stadium. It was something I didn’t believe was possible. It came true though, so it’s something to be proud of, being from Bruges. It’s becoming a bit more normal but it’ll always be special.”

Special is one of the adjectives increasingly ascribed to this elegant and versatile 20-year-old who illuminates matches with his deftness of touch. Indeed he is emerging as his nation’s next big thing, having already taken his place alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens in the national team. Belgium’s future beyond the golden generation is looking bright.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

De Ketelaere, deployed mostly up front by Club this season, is being tipped to take over one day as the Red Devils’ creative heartbeat. He certainly has the tools of a classic No10. Despite his height (191cm) he has top-drawer technique and distribution, a knack for dribbling and an uncommonly quick football brain, hence his billing as De Bruyne’s natural heir. The youngster, however, has said that he does not know which position he will ultimately lock down.

De Ketelaere made his senior debut in a Belgian Cup game against amateur side Francs Borains in September 2019, but within a month was facing Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. “That was even more special,” he says. “Making your debut against Francs Borains is great, of course, and I’ll never forget that, but making my debut at the Jan Breydelstadion in the Champions League is something I’ll never forget. With all the fans, that gave me goosebumps.”

Club Brugge suffered a 5-0 loss that night, but it was a very different story when the teams were reunited this September. This time, with De Ketelaere popping up all over the pitch and leading the hosts’ pressing efforts, Philippe Clement’s side secured a 1-1 draw – despite a daunting Paris forward line of Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Lionel Messi. De Ketelaere outshone them all.

Two weeks later he supplied the assist for Hans Vanaken’s equaliser in a 2-1 victory at Leipzig. Then, in October, came his maiden goal for Belgium on just his second appearance, in a 2-1 Nations League loss to Italy. Fittingly that landmark strike was set up by De Bruyne – the player with whom he is most often compared.

Like De Bruyne, who left Genk for Chelsea in 2012, De Ketelaere may soon be tempted abroad. For now though Bruges – with its quaint medieval charm and constant reminders of childhood – is keeping him grounded. No small matter when you’ve been hailed as the fresh hope of an entire nation, yet are reputed to be shy and wary of chasing fame. “I regularly take a walk around the city,” he says, recommending the chips he used to tuck into from the market and his favourite treats from “excellent chocolatier” Dominique Persoone. He adds: “There are historical buildings, and that’s nice when you stroll around. There’s also the heritage, so the buildings have character, and that’s the thing about Bruges: the character remains.” Happily, the same can be said of De Ketelaere.

A long road to Champions League football? In the literal sense, for Club Brugge youngster Charles De Ketelaere, it is actually just “500 metres or thereabouts”. This, after all, is the distance from his team’s Jan Breydelstadion to the house he grew up in and still shares with his mother, Isabelle. He may now be a senior Belgian international, already hailed as King Charles in his native country, yet his youth as a wide-eyed Club fan is so recent that he still has the posters on his bedroom wall to prove it.

“I’ve had that room for a long time so those posters have been there for a while,” he says. “I’ve also got posters of other players, not just from Club Brugge. As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they’re still there.”

"As a little boy I always put up posters of my idols. That was fun – and they're still there. I've also got posters of other players. Not just from Club Brugge"


They serve also as a reminder of how far he has come – figuratively speaking, of course. It has only been a few years since De Ketelaere, then an academy hopeful, served as a wide-eyed Jan Breydelstadion ballboy. “It seemed so far away then,” he says of the dream of playing first-team football. “When I was about 14 I had a season ticket for about three years, together with my brother and a couple of friends. I went every week.”

Imagine, then, the thrill of morphing from being part of the crowd to crowd favourite. “It’s definitely still a special feeling. In the beginning it was a dream come true. When I was playing in the Club Brugge youth academy, my brother and friends said it’d be great if I got to play in the stadium. It was something I didn’t believe was possible. It came true though, so it’s something to be proud of, being from Bruges. It’s becoming a bit more normal but it’ll always be special.”

Special is one of the adjectives increasingly ascribed to this elegant and versatile 20-year-old who illuminates matches with his deftness of touch. Indeed he is emerging as his nation’s next big thing, having already taken his place alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens in the national team. Belgium’s future beyond the golden generation is looking bright.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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