Belgium’s golden generation era is at its tail end but most of the players started making their way up from the Belgian first division. It's unsurprising then the Jupiler Pro League has been a market for some of the top clubs in the world in recent times.

From Arsenal’s acquisition of Albert Sambi Lokonga to the likes of Sander Berge, Kalidou Koulibaly, Axel Witsel, Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku - there is a long list of players who have made it to the top after starting in Belgium.

With a quality largely better than the Scottish Premiership but with bargains still to be found, the Jupiler Pro League would be a clever market for Celtic to scout.

In this article, we will take a look at three smart and feasible options that could prove to be the next big stars from Belgium’s top division.

Nicolas Raskin - Standard Liege

Standard Liege find themselves 13th in the league table and it's been a tough season but they have a few players who are talents to watch out for. One of them, Hugo Siquet has confirmed his move to SC Freiburg in January and it might not be long before someone comes in for one of their midfielders, Nicolas Raskin.

Raskin is a right-footed central midfielder who can drop deep or play an advanced role. He is quite short in height (179 cms) but he more than makes up for it with his technical ability. Raskin is 20 and a key part of Belgium U21’s squad. Followers of the Scottish Under-21 national team would have definitely noticed him standing out in Belgium's recent win against Scotland.

For Standard, he has mainly played on the left side in midfield in a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 diamond. He has also played deeper in a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 and 4-2-2-2.

We will start by taking a look at his passing and creative attributes.

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It is quite evident from data that Raskin is a threat in offence as he tends to make killer passes leading to chances. His expected assists might be low as he isn’t primarily an attacking midfielder but the number of attempted through balls, key passes and smart passes should add more value to his game.

Raskin has got a very good technical skillset and he is quite composed when in possession. He has close control on the ball and can take on players, wiggling his way in although it isn’t his main style. The 20-year-old Belgian tries to move the ball forward quickly and is a good ball progressor. He is a solid ball carrier. In addition, he can manoeuvre his way out of tight spaces and can also escape a press by playing intricate passes.

His cleverness on the ball makes him stand out and he has that crucial unpredictability factor. When asking for the ball you can see he scans around before receiving so he can make his decisions faster.

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The images above are good evidence of his vision. He slips in a brilliant through ball and Standard ends up scoring from this move.

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Raskin’s defensive side could use some work but he is a hard worker as confirmed by his defensive duels attempted metric. He gets tight to opposition players and tries to nick the ball, creating turnovers for his team. However, his physique lets him down on occasions when he comes up against stronger players. This could be an issue in Scotland. 

He does tend to get lost out of possession and has been caught ball watching, although not consistently.

Raskin is just 20 and is a player who might explode in the next two or three years. 

Angelo Preciado - Genk

Genk have been a key breeding ground for some quality players. Koulibaly, De Bruyne, Carrasco, Courtois, Bailey etc are a few who went on to play at the biggest levels after impressing at the club. Angelo Preciado could possibly join the same list.

Preciado is a 23-year-old right-back who plays with a bit of flair. The Ecuadorian is an interesting prospect but would need a bit of improvement in a few areas to play for a top team at the very highest level.

The Premiership might be a good move for him but he would need to work on his defensive side a bit which we will get into soon.

We will start by taking a look at his passing and creativity with a visualisation.

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Preciado might not be one of those full-backs who will accelerate all the time although he has that in his locker. He does show himself as a passing option but isn’t a “make things happen” player. Passing is a strong suit of his and he is good with his feet. He links up well with his teammates down the right flank and has the ability to take on players and beat his man although he does tend to play a non-risky pass under pressure. 

Preciado aligns his body in a way that he is able to move inside to the central areas or the halfspaces so would perfectly suit Ange Postecoglou's use of inverted full-backs.

He also has the skill to beat his man often. In the images below, you can see how he easily he beats two defenders to move into a dangerous area and get a cross in -

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Preciado does get tight with his man while defending and tends to be quite aggressive when competing in duels. He tends to go to ground when he feels that he’s beaten for pace. He needs support from the centre-backs as he tends to track back too slowly. It has been quite evident at Genk where he tends to jog back even when there is a turnover, not something he'd get away with under Postecoglou.

The images below sum up Preciado in turnovers as he starts jogging initially and as soon as he senses that there might be a one-v-one, he accelerates and makes up the ground, putting in a sliding tackle to block the shot.

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Preciado might not be a showstopper but he certainly could be an asset for Celtic that could go on the list as a potential replacement for Josip Juranovic or Tony Ralston should either depart or lose the manager's confidence.

Bryan Heynen - Genk

The third player we are going to look at is Bryan Heynen, who has more experience than the previous two. Heynen's arrival would be a big statement for the Hoops, potentially smashing their transfer record as he's valued at around £10m but he would represent a stellar signing in midfield with his peak years approaching.

The 24-year-old central midfielder who can also play deeper is quite ambidextrous with his right foot being slightly preferred. He has spent all his career at Genk starting from their youth academy and now captains his side.

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Heynen is a very progressive midfielder who loves to get moving forward with the ball at every opportunity. As you can see from the numbers in the visualisation, he attempts intricate passes very often and has the ability to tread balls in behind the defence. He ranks high when it comes to involvement in creating shots for his team as he is often part of the buildup that leads to chances.

He does tend to take the option to shoot when he has the chance and uses his long body to turn with the ball at times. However, with the risk comes sacrifice as he might give away the ball often trying high-risk, high-reward passes causing turnovers.

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Heynen does win a good amount of his aerial duels and is good in the air during set-pieces. In addition, he uses his strength to hold-off players when in possession. He is on the move all the time and has a habit of dropping into wide areas consistently. He makes good use of his long legs when it comes to defensive actions. He stretches his limbs to intercept and also puts it in to tackle and regain possession for his team.

He is quite aggressive and has a habit of giving away fouls when he gets beaten. The 24-year-old Belgian isn’t shy when it comes to tracking back but finds himself out of possession only occasionally.

Heynen could prove to be a huge presence for Celtic in midfield and would add serious class to that area immediately.

His mix of work rate and quality looks a perfect mix for Angeball.

However, his arrival wouldn't come cheap and may be the kind of signing that's more in tune with the pre-Covid world.