AZ gets tough task with Dutch goalkeeper Verbruggen: ‘Best in the league’
Ahead of tonight’s game between Anderlecht and AZ in the Conference League (9 p.m.), the Belgians’ coach has warned the Dutch about another Dutchman. “I think Bart Verbruggen is the best goalkeeper in the league,” is Danish Anderlecht coach Brian Riemer’s opinion.
Dutch goalkeeper Verbruggen is one of the few bright spots at the fallen top club from Brussels, which is ninth in the league. His coach even calls him “exceptional.”
Not only Riemer sees his qualities. Last month, Verbruggen was already called up for Oranje. Anderlecht defender Jan Vertonghen even thinks Verbruggen can become one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
So confidence in him is high. Verbruggen himself feels the same. “I feel more ready than ever. I want to enjoy the match,” the 20-year-old Dutchman declared ahead of the quarterfinal match in the Belgian capital.
The match against AZ is a chance for Verbruggen to show himself to his compatriots. After all, he already left for Belgium in the summer of 2020.
Before that, he played in the youth of WDS’19, where Virgil van Dijk also took his first steps on the soccer field, and NAC Breda. At the professional club he ended up with the first selection via the youth teams.
He developed under goalkeeper trainer and former NAC goalkeeper Jelle ten Rouwelaar, but the then seventeen-year-old Verbruggen was not given a chance in the first team at that time. By then Verbruggen had already been in action for the youth teams of Oranje.
Ten Rouwelaar, who joined Anderlecht as goalkeeper coach in the summer of 2020, took the pearl from the south to the even more southern resort. Cost: three tons. In Brussels, he started as reserve goalkeeper behind Hendrik van Crombrugge and current Feyenoord goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther.
At the end of the first season he already made his debut in the first and since last December he has been Anderlecht’s first goalkeeper. In the four months as first goalkeeper, Verbruggen impressed.
In February, for example, he stopped all three Bulgarian penalty kicks in the knockout match against Ludogorets. He was the first goalkeeper in 35 years to keep his goal clean in a European penalty shootout series. He also kept the zero in his last seven games.
That Verbruggen can goalkeeping was also noticed by national coach Ronald Koeman. His first days with the selection did not go as hoped, as Verbruggen was one of the victims of what became popularly known as the “chicken curry incident.
Verbruggen had to go home for a few days, but was later allowed to report back to Orange. He found it “super educational” to play with boys for whom the Champions League is the stage. Although he also remained stoic. “I’m not on a school trip here,” Verbruggen said a few weeks ago.
Verbruggen believes he can’t just goalkeep. “I’m the first striker on the team,” he refers to his soccer ability.
The Dutchman’s performance also brings interest. The goalkeeper was close to a transfer to Burnley last year and can probably count on foreign interest again next summer.
Coach Riemer is eager to continue working with Verbruggen. “One thing I’ve learned in soccer: everything is for sale. But we don’t want to let Bart go. In our world, he is part of our future.”