The way to the top is rarely without obstacles. But Sunday’s 21-year-old Charles de Kitleri has stormed to the top of European football seemingly effortlessly. Or does it look that way? This was the way to move the record.
“It must have happened about six years ago. One of the young players caught my eye in one of the fields next to the field. A bit of a bean stalk, long and narrow, but with a prominent left foot. I remember when they said that this boy could be an excellent center back.”
Vincent Mannert laughs heartily as he thinks of his early memories of Charles de Kettlery. Everyone at Club Brugge has a tale about the blonde head of Sint-Andries.
Cut De Ketelaere and bleed blue and black.
Growing up in the shadow of Jan Briddle, he ran in all the youth series of the Club and was a ball boy for his champions at the time.
At the age of 21, he has now left as an icon himself.
Mama Isabel de Kuiper is still amazed every day at how quickly things have gone. Little Charles starts playing football at FC Varsenare early on, only to be noticed almost immediately by the great club Brugge.
“It was at a camp organized by a coach,” she recalls. “We first wanted to leave Charles with Varsinari, with his friends from school. He only played football for one year for both clubs. From the first grade, Charles made a complete switch.”
Charles had a hard time with the injustice in tennis and preferred playing soccer with friends to standing alone on the field.
But at the time, it was by no means certain that De Kitleari’s future lay in football. Bruggeling also turned out to be a very talented tennis player. He was twice crowned Flemish champion and takes lessons at the best sports academy in Willerijk.
A video of 9-year-old De Ketelaere at tennis school has gone viral several times. He has already expressed his preference for football.
And so, despite the huge potential, CDK throws its racket aside to focus on football. “Because I’d rather play soccer with my friends in the evening than play tennis alone for an hour,” he said earlier.
“Plus, he had trouble with unfairness in tennis,” his mother adds. “If the boy on the other side shouted that the ball went out while it wasn’t…in football, Charles still had a hard time making the wrong decisions.”
It immediately explains De Ketelaeres’ concern about his dream transfer. He knew Milan was the right choice, not a move to Leeds.
However, for a long time there were doubts whether De Ketelaere would make him a truly professional footballer.
His slender physique and a bit of average height in particular are not an advantage in the youth streak. Mother Isabel recalls: “He had to play in the future for the national team.”
“A team made up of late mature players. But around the age of sixteen, Charles suddenly started to grow like a cabbage. From 10 to 15 cm in one year! At first it caused injuries, after a while it was no longer a problem” .
Then you have to wait for that moment: a chance for the first team to show itself. Fortunately, De Ketelaere comes on the radar of Philippe Clement, the head coach who dares to give chances to his youth.
In the summer of 2019, De Ketelaere – meanwhile more than 90 million – could show himself to the big boys in preparation. He seizes an opportunity with both hands, as he often does later.
A few months later, De Ketelaere’s professional debut in a cup match against Frank Buren passed almost silently.
The surprising starting place against Paris Saint-Germain increases the interest in the teenager. But it is his particularly crucial Champions League goal against Zenit that gets the train moving.
De Ketelaere later became crucial to the club’s title fight, impressed last season at championship ball and was called up to join the Red Devils. His popularity with supporters of blue and black could no longer be kept up.
For the National Champion, the local Goldcrest was the poster boy of his dreams. “Charles is one of the pioneers in a project that started 10 years ago to become more of a real coaching club,” Manart says.
“He grew up with Club Brugge who started in athletic acceleration and implementing our values: positivity and a winning mentality.”
without losing sight of its origins. Because the world around De Ketelaere himself may have undeniably changed in the past couple of years, but the blond head has remained the same.
Transferring $1 million to AC Milan wouldn’t change that either.
Mama Isabel glared: “He’s still the same boy.” “Someone who loves his family a lot and is less of an outside interest. That’s why we save him when it’s his turn to go to the bakery.”
This one is in Milan…
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