Leeds United face fierce competition as they prepare to step up their interest in Club Brugge star Charles De Ketelaere.
The Belgium international has shone during the last 12 months and ended last season with 18 goals and 10 assists from 49 appearances in all competitions.
But who is De Ketelaere and what could he offer Jesse Marsch if he is able to see off the competition and secure a deal to bring the 21-year-old to Elland Road this summer?
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Breaking into senior football and a Champions League hammering
After making his name in Club Brugge’s youth system, De Ketelaere made his senior debut in a win at Francs Borains in a Belgian Cup sixth round tie in September 2019.
The youngster played the entire 90 minutes of the 3-0 win and appeared in his side’s following five fixtures in the competition - including their 1-0 defeat against Royal Antwerp in the final.
It was during that run that De Ketelaere made his Champions League debut - although it was a far from happy experience as he side suffered a 5-0 home defeat against a Paris Saint Germain side containing the likes of Marco Verratti, Mauro Icardi and Angel de Maria.
A month after that defeat, he made a Belgian league debut as a substitute in a 2-0 home win against Oostende.
In total, De Ketelaere ended his first season with two goals and two assists in his 25 appearances in all competitions.
A maiden international call-up and praise from Roberto Martinez
Just over a year after breaking into the Brugge first-team, De Ketelaere was handed a first call-up to the Belgium senior squad.
After making six appearances for the Under-21s, he made his senior debut as a late substitute for Thorgan Hazard in a 2-1 friendly win against Switzerland.
A first international goal arrived in October 2021 when he came off the bench to score his side’s goal in a 2-1 defeat in Italy in a Nations League third place play-off.
Speaking to Belgian outlet Het Laatste Nieuws, Red Devils manager Roberto Martinez hailed the youngster as he assessed his progression.
The former Wigan Athletic manager said: “First of all, I don’t look at the football player Charles De Ketelaere but at the human being.
“I see someone who is already very experienced, who is comfortable in his own skin. Really impressive. He is a great player who can easily find space and play with his back to goal.
“His greatest qualities are turning away and playing forward. In addition, he is very good with both feet. We shouldn’t want to pin Charles to one position too quickly.
“With us, he is better with a number nine in front of him but in specific matches he can definitely play as a striker.”
At present, De Ketelaere has earned eight senior caps and is seen as a big part of Belgium’s future.
What has been said about his future?
With 25 goals and 20 games in 120 appearances for Club Brugge, De Ketelaere looks primed for a move to one of European football’s major leagues.
Brugge manager Carl Hoefkens hinted at a departure in the near future despite admitting he wanted to retain the services of one of his key assets.
Speaking recently, he said: “I hope to keep De Ketelaere here and Noa (Lang) too, but I know there’s a good chance – some more than others – that the next step is coming. We’ll see that in the coming weeks.”
With interest from AC Milan mentioned in the Italian media recently, Belgian journalist Alexandre Braeckman gave his opinion on where De Ketelaere could progress and delivered a comparison to one of the Premier League’s biggest stars.
“To be honest with you, I think De Ketelaere could become the next De Bruyne,” he told Pianeta Milan.
“His game vision is brilliant; he is fast, technically interesting, he can score quite easily. He can play behind a striker, but he can also be employed as a false nine or a striker.
“His vision in making assists is incredible. De Bruyne looks after him in the national team; I think he knows what he can do.”
What sort of player would Leeds be getting?
Putting it simply, a versatile and hardworking player.
De Ketelaere has played in a number of positions for Brugge and Belgium including as a number ten and a winger.
According to stats provided by www.transfermarkt.co.uk, the vast majority have come as a forward or in an attacking midfield role.
And further analysis from whoscored.com suggests De Ketelaere’s strengths include holding onto the ball, dribbling and key passes.
However, there is also a willingness to provide a defensive contribution, showing he could fit into the mentality encouraged by Leeds manager Marsch.