Forget about Southampton’s famous academy.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, all the best teams in Europe stay at the very top because more often than not they retain their top talent.
In some far off parallel universe, having kept hold of their best players, Genk have just beaten Los Blancos in the Champions League final.
The Belgian side have a remarkable track-record of producing their own top talent, as well as nurturing and developing many others.
A number of Genk’s academy graduates and others who have treated the club as a stepping stone, now boast numerous major honours between them.
Here’s the list that proves Genk is an absolute breeding ground of top talent…
1 Kevin De Bruyne 2008-2012
Easily the most recognisable of Genk’s academy stars.
The Belgian maestro has since gone onto become one of the best midfielders in Europe.
Chelsea snapped up a fresh-faced De Bruyne for a measly £7million in 2012, before immediately sending him back on loan for the remainder of the season.
After (according to Jose Mourinho) failing to make the grade at Stamford Bridge, De Bruyne signed for Wolfsburg in 2014, before joining Man City for £55million in 2015.
The rest is history.
2 Thibaut Courtois 2009-2011
The Chelsea connection continues with Courtois, who was instrumental in Genk’s 2010/11 title winning season.
The youngster won the Goalkeeper of the Year award and was poached by Chelsea for £9million at the end of the campaign.
Three seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid gave Courtois the chance to earn his stripes ahead of his return to Stamford Bridge in 2014.
The Belgian’s impressive performances for the Blues then earned him a move to Real Madrid this summer.
From Genk to Galactico in seven years. Fair play, mate.
3 Wilfred Ndidi 2015-2017
Now widely recognised as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League, Ndidi was once a fresh-faced Genk prospect.
The Nigerian impressed so much that he convinced Leicester to fork out a hefty £17million to secure his signature.
The 21-year-old has shone since he arrived at the Foxes in 2017, earning himself a reputation as a tough-tackling midfield engine.
Ndidi will eternally be linked with a move to a top six club.
4 Leon Bailey 2015/2017
Bailey has seen his stock rise dramatically following his performances for Bayern Leverkusenm last season.
After taking the p*ss in Belgium for two years, the Jamaican born winger was linked to a host of Europe’s top clubs.
We were teased with the prospect of seeing Bailey run-out for England this summer, as two of his grandparents have British citizenship.
It turns out however that this isn’t enough to get you in the Blighty squad these days.
He should have been on that plane.
5 Kalidou Koulibaly 2012-2014
Two seasons with Genk gave Koulibaly the perfect environment to showcase his talents.
Napoli had seen enough of the imposing centre-back to take a £6million gamble on the Senegalese in 2014.
The 27-year-old has blossomed into one of the best defenders in Europe and is a perennial transfer target for the Premier League elite.
£6million wouldn’t buy you his right foot nowadays.
Some honourable mentions also go out to this lot…
Christian Benteke 2006-2007
Divock Origi 2001-2010
Steven Defour 2004-2006
Yannick Carrasco 2005-2010
Genk are well and truly the Southampton of Belgium.
READ MORE FROM THE WEIRD AND WONDERFUL WORLD OF DREAM TEAM:
- Mariano re-signing for Real Madrid continues their weird transfer market trend over the last five years
- Inside Salford City, the new ‘most controversial club’ in England
- Which OG footballing legend would you choose to own your club?
Have you signed up to play Dream Team Weekender?
- Pick 7 players – no limit to the number of players you can choose from one club
- No transfer budget – any player is available to pick
- Only Saturday and Sunday fixtures
- Sign up to play Dream Team Weekender now
WATCH: Love Of The Game: Leyton Orient (Episode 1)