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  • By Alessandro Schiavone in Lens

Why London clubs should scout Lens and Belgium star Lois Openda this season

The clubs from the capital could do much worse than check out Ligue 1 side Racing Club de Lens star Ikoma Loïs Openda.

The 22-year-old Belgian international, who joined les Sang et Or from Club Bruges after a fruitful two-year loan spell at Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem where he racked up 28 goals in 66 league appearances, is a star in the making.

Still largely unknown to the wider public, Openda marked his international debut for Belgium with a goal against Poland in June and is already being touted as a potential successor to Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi for the Red Devils. With new AC Milan star Charles De Ketelaere, Belgian football is in good hands.

Against Stade Brestois on Saturday, the youngster displayed pace, power and an ability to easily break the lines.

Even though the visitors sat deep, Openda impressively put his explosiveness to good use to run in behind the backline and find himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Marco Bizot on several occasions.

In the 18th minute of the thrilling game, which Lens won 3-2, he left his marker in his wake after neatly controlling hat-trick hero Florian Sotoca’s weighted ball only to fire wide from a rather difficult angle.

The Belgian hotshot repeatedly stretched manager Michel De Zakarian’s defence to breaking point but lacked two vital attributes on Sunday: composure and ruthlessness.

On the hour-mark he headed wide after a good cross in. There was a feeling he could have done more in terms of putting his chances away. But if he can add Lukaku’s ruthless streak to his game he could become some player in future. Big Rom also wasn't the most clinical no.9 when first bursting onto the scene. But the signs are encouraging. Because Openda is blessed with a superb understanding of the game, vision and a rare unpredictability on and off the ball.

He is selfish when he has to be but altruistic when he sees that one of his teammates is better positioned.

On the stroke of half-time he pulled the ball back for Adam Frankowski who saw his shot parried aside from a central position.

After the restart, his excellent lay-off for one of his teammates epitomised his generosity. He could have gone for it himself but preferred to send David Pereira through on goal.

The ex-Club Bruges academy player undeniably deserved a goal on his Ligue 1 debut for the way he caused Brest all sorts of problems.

His audacity, ability to read the game and get himself into good shooting positions are three indicators that the boy has a bright future ahead.

In fact he already looks like a Premier League player as he has physicality, presence and penetration.

Whenever the ball was glued to his feet on Sunday afternoon, Brest looked nervy and unsettled.

Sure, he has a long way to come in terms of making the most of clear-cut and half chances because staying cool when in shooting range wasn't his forte against minnows Brest.

But his ability to race past defenders and be in the right position at the right time leads us to think that this term he can at least equal club legend Tony Vairelles’ nine goals from the title-winning 1997/1998 Ligue 1 campaign.

And if he progresses from a sharpness viewpoint, he could become the real deal and lead Lens to even bigger things.

Maybe he won't reach the level of world-class striker Lukaku but eclipsing Batshuayi and Benteke clearly isn't beyond the young, hungry lad.

The former earned himself a move to Chelsea after setting the French top-flight alight with Marseille between 2014 and 2016.

London clubs, start doing your homework now.


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