Belgium, like its neighbour the Netherlands, sees its football largely dominated by a “big three”. Whereas the traditional giants of Dutch football are Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord, in Belgium their equivalents are Anderlecht, Standard Liège and Club Brugge. It is no surprise therefore that when a player moves between one of these powerhouses, it makes headlines. Though many have played for two of the three, no-one has ever completed the full set in Belgium, until now.
When Meme Tchité takes to the field for his new side Club Brugge, he will be the first player to have turned out to accomplish this feat, having just left Standard Liège for a second time, with a one season spell at Anderlecht and a stint with Racing Santander sandwiched in between. It was another striker, who played for the Dutch top three – the fantastically prolific Ruud Geels, who incidentally also plied his trade with Anderlecht and Club south of the border.
While the above adds a novelty factor to the transfer, it is by no means a shock to see Tchité leave Sclessin behind. His second spell has been marred by unhappiness as Standard experienced turbulence on and off the pitch. The Burundi-born striker made no secret of his desire to go in January, however, then coach José Riga informed him that he did not want him to go to Al Shabab, who had made him an offer he felt he could not refuse. (Riga himself would be off to the Middle-East at the end of the season.) A bargain was then struck with Pierre François whereby Tchité would be allowed to leave in the summer provided a club met the release fee of €1.2m, which explains the low transfer fee.
Aspersions were cast against the character and integrity of the player, which hit him hard. There were allegations that he was exaggerating the effects of an injury, not being entirely honest about a stomach bug and that his period on the sidelines came at a rather convenient time with the transfer window in full swing. He hit out at his critics saying that he is a professional who respects his club, he did not receive any financial inducements to stay and that the uncertainty surrounding his future would not allow his concentration and focus to waver.
On the last point, Standard fans may not be in agreement if the truth be told. Tchité finished the season with a reasonable tally of eleven goals but often his head looked as if it was elsewhere. His campaign ended as a damp squib, missing the run-in with a shoulder injury with Standard at one point having to resort to playing winger Serge Gakpé as a makeshift forward. One thing is for sure, the management are determined to avoid any shortage of strikers. Dudu Biton has already joined from Charleroi and the club are acively pursuing the transfers of Malmö’s Mathias Ranégie and more notably Belgian international striker Marvin Ogunjimi. Mallorca would be prepared to loan the former Genk man although Standard chairman Roland Duchâtelet prefers permanent transfers.
With Pierre François gone, a key ally of Tchité’s who may have had some hope of overturning the odds and keeping him at the club was gone. The real surprise is that Tchité has remained in Belgium despite having an agreement to join Al Ain. Perhaps it’s a sign he is not entirely motivated by money though Club Brugge have shown in recent times they are not shy when it comes to getting out the chequebook.
It is a move that suits all concerned. While Tchité was not one of the many Standard players with close links to former owner Lucien D’Onofrio, the club are continuing to turn over a new leaf and not too many tears will be shed in Liège at Meme’s departure. Club Brugge receive a quality striker, who has consistently proved himself capable of scoring regularly in the Jupiler Pro League without breaking the bank as they did last summer for the admittedly underwhelming Björn Vleminckx. Georges Leekens, who can also count on youngster Mushaga Bakenga, the rejuvenated Joseph Akpala and the improving Carlos Bacca, welcomes a player whom he persuaded to qualify for the Belgian national team. Tchité’s own chances of being called up for the Rode Duivels are infinitely better than if he were out in the UAE. One must only hope, however, that his exploits on the field outdo his fashion sense.