UEFA.com runs the rule over Anderlecht’s 19-year-old midfield maestro, who may be seeing a good deal more of Manchester United in the years ahead.
What they say
“Tielemans is a phenomenon. There are not many players better than him.”
Pär Zetterberg, former Anderlecht playmaker
“We have always known Tielemans was a super talent. Whenever anyone asked me who I thought would go far, I would mention his name first.”
Mohammed Ouahbi, Anderlecht youth coach
“With his skills and quality, he forces opponents into mistakes. He can play the long ball and launch attacks. His age is not important. He will only get better with matches.”
Paul Van Himst, Anderlecht and Belgium great
International: 3 appearances, 0 goals
UEFA club competition: 34 appearances, 5 goals
Domestic competition: 138 appearances, 29 goals
What you might not know
• Born in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, not far from Anderlecht, Tielemans has been on the club’s radar since he was five, working his way through the youth ranks playing as a No10. He made his first-team debut on 28 July 2013 in a First League game against Lokeren, two months after his 16th birthday.
• At 16 years and 148 days, Youri Tielemans became the third-youngest player in UEFA Champions League history when he started for Anderlecht against Olympiacos on 2 October 2013.
• Initially deployed as a holding midfielder, Tielemans’ speed, timing and ability to supply killer passes and shoot with both feet have prompted a move to a more attacking role. “It’s perfect,” he said. “I always played as a No10 in the youth teams.”
• The head of Anderlecht’s youth department Jean Kindermans likened Tielemans to Belgian international Axel Witsel, while others have seen parallels with Frank Lampard. Tielemans himself says Zinédine Zidane is his footballing idol.
• Tielemans strenuously denied that United’s José Mourinho had given him a pre-season phone call, despite rumours to the contrary, saying: “I have deep respect for Mr Mourinho and for numerous other managers but he has never contacted me yet. I’m concentrating on my career and an important match tomorrow night.”
• He recently became a father.
— Youri Tielemans (@ytielemans) March 5, 2017
• Tielemans has been linked with any number of clubs – Arsenal, Tottenham, Juventus – but while he says he doesn’t mind which league he ends up in, most of his tweets are in English. Former Belgium forward Marc Degryse, meanwhile, urged the 19-year-old to opt for a smaller club to be certain of a starting spot. Tielemans seemed to agree, saying: “Like Marc says, it’s good to avoid ending up on the bench.”
• Anderlecht sporting director Herman Van Holsbeeck admitted in January he was amazed to have kept Tielemans for so long. “It’s extraordinary we have been able to enjoy four seasons of such a talent. Tielemans is on all lists of most promising young players in Europe.”
• Though eligible to play for DR Congo through his mother, Tielemans stuck with Belgium and made his senior debut in a 1-1 friendly draw with the Netherlands; his first start followed in a 3-3 draw against Russia on 28 March.
— Youri Tielemans (@ytielemans) March 28, 2017
What he says
“I don’t really feel the pressure. I know people expect a lot of me but I ask a lot of myself as I know I am good enough to play at a higher level. I have to improve my fitness in the hope I can move to a bigger league in the future. I enjoy making quality passes – I like attractive football – but I know I have to work harder sometimes.”
“It’s always a great feeling to score a goal, pure and simple. But scoring here, at this stadium, is such a pleasure because when I watched other players score when I was younger, I always hoped I would do the same one day – and now I have. When you’ve grown up here and lived here, there’s a real sense of it being a family.”