“If someone had told me a few years ago that I would play against Lior Rapalov one day, I would not have believed him. It would have been my idol,” Charles de Catalarra smiled recently. And from this one can learn a few things.
First, the Israeli midfielder left a huge impression on Bruges – he was one of the most popular players in the stands, and a role model for the academy’s students. Second, the 20.year.old de Catalara is an exceptionally modest guy, and even now, as his self.confidence soars to the skies, he does not forget the sources and doubts that accompanied him as a child. Third, the rising star of Bruges is a die.hard fan of the blue.blacks. He grew up near the stadium, went to games since he can remember, served as a ball carrier. As far as the audience is concerned, he is simply one of them, so the love for him knows no bounds.
Was a prince and was upgraded to a king
The dizzying success of de Catalara is the happiest thing in the picturesque city. Less than two years have passed since he made his debut in the uniform of his beloved team, and every Bruges is crazy about him. At first they called him Prince, because of his name. Soon, the nickname for the king changed. This is how the local journalists – King Charles – talk about him. And after scoring the winning goal during injuries in the away game against Zenit in the Champions League last October, he appeared not far from his home very invested graffiti, with a crown painted on the letter C in his name.
This was not his first dramatic moment. De Catalara scored his debut goal in the Bruges uniform in the last minutes of the Belgian Cup semi.final in February 2020, and the euphoria was great – until she lost in the final to Antwerp from a goal by… Yes, Raphaelov, of course. It was a bit cruel to miss the first title like that, but soon after de Catalunya was already celebrating a championship. Last season, came the second consecutive championship, and this time he was already a key player, with four goals, six assists, and wonderful performances in a wide variety of roles.
Dribbler, morale, scorer
No one still knows what the optimal position is for de Catalara. On the one hand, he is a good scorer, he has well.developed senses in the field, he knows how to end attacks with one touch, so he is often placed as a central striker, but this is not necessarily the right thing to do. Because on the other hand, he is agile, cunning and has fantastic control of the ball – which is rare for a player who rises to 192 centimeters. These abilities allowed him to excel as a left winger, and in games against comfortable rivals even coached him Philippe Clement as a left.back.
And on the other hand, de Catalarra’s most notable features are probably game vision and fine delivery to all ranges. He himself especially enjoys being signed to “The Pre.Cooking” – and this is, as is well known, Kevin de Brauna’s number one treat. Therefore, in some circles he is considered a natural successor to the genius playmaker from Manchester City. King Charles is a decade younger than him, and in time may get the reins from him in the center of the team field.
This complex makes de Catalarra a particularly enjoyable player to watch, and its popularity breaks records not only in Bruges. From a fairly anonymous guy in 2019, he became a hit in Belgium in 2020, and was eventually selected as the most promising young athlete in all disciplines. For that matter, since the award was founded 23 years ago, it has been won by only five footballers, including Romulo Lukaku in 2009. The first, in 1998, was Kim Clijsters, which is a bit symbolic when it comes to de Catalarra, because he was a very talented tennis player as a child, won the district tournament at the age of 10, but then preferred to focus on football, mainly because of his intense love for Club Brugge, but also because of costs Lower for his divorced parents.
Zohar vs. Messi and Neymar
Because the parents, with all the support they gave to the offspring, did not really see any sport as a professional future. The father, who works as a doctor at the hospital in Bruges, has always stressed the need to get a higher education, in order to secure himself financially. Indeed, until recently Charles had studied law at university, and was forced to stop on the way to the degree only when it became clear that it was no longer really in line with a footballer’s schedule. This success also surprised him, because for years he was not considered the most promising boy in academia, and even suffered many injuries due to the frequent growth bursts, at the end of which he grew from a small child to his current height.
This growth made him too thin, and until recently de Catalarra weighed only 72 kilograms. So he went to work overtime in the gym, and during the last season has already reached 79 pounds with a lot more muscle – allowing him to cope better with sturdy defensive players. He has been upgraded, screwed up, and the whole of Bruges is starting to get more powerful thanks to him, even in the Champions League. Last season he scored in the pair of encounters against Zenit, but those victories were only enough for third place at home. This season, he has been hot in the opening round against Paris Saint.Germain.
All eyes were on Leo Messi, Killian Ambape and Neymar who were on paper to defeat the Belgian champions, but it was de Catalarra who excelled on the pitch in a 1.1 draw. Then, in the second round, he cooked up and was involved in another goal on the way to the sensational 1: 2 victory in Leipzig. He is now expecting two meetings against Manchester City, and Bruges comes to them as she leads De Bruyne’s team in the table. What could be more intriguing than a head.to.head battle between the star and his intended successor?
The team needs new blood
And in the meantime, they may cooperate for the first time on the grass. Roberto Martinez highly praised de Catalaro when he called him up for the League of Nations finals and stated: “Charles was great against PSG, and this is a great opportunity for him. He is able to bring added value to the team on the left wing.” This is, at the moment, the possible slot for him tonight in the semi.final against France in Turin. The media is eagerly awaiting the possible premiere of the new diamond, because the previous appearance as a substitute during injuries a year ago in a friendly match against Switzerland is not really considered.
There is no certainty that this will happen, but everyone is well aware of how much the team needs rejuvenation. Belgium was the oldest team in Euro 2020, and new blood needs to be pumped into the system in order to develop positive momentum. The Spanish Martinez may even be inspired by Luis Enrique who does not hesitate to throw youngsters into the fray – and especially from the insane 17.year.old Gabi’s debut against Italy yesterday. If he is able to do so after just seven games at Barcelona, it is clear that De Catalarra also has a chance to shine when he is in fantastic shape.
Finally a big star from Bruges?
Bruges fans are eager to see him in action, especially since in the golden generation of Belgium they did not have a representative of their own. De Briena grew up in Ghent and then in Genk, Dries Martens is also a Ghent graduate, Vincent Kompany and Lukaku are Anderlecht graduates, Axel Witsel is a standard Liege man, Eden Hazard started in France, Raja Nainggolan in Italy, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Aldervierx grew up. Bruges was somehow represented by Thomas Monier, but he too came to the club at the age of 20 and did not study at his academy. He’s really not local. De Catalarra did, and the ascent did not change him either.
He still lives with his mother, brother and sister, hardly goes out for fun, and continues to be the best and kindest kid around. He even shyed away from going to the local mafia because he was tired of the requests to take a selfie. He keeps his feet on the ground, unmoved by the sequence of calls his agent receives. “I know I’ll have to leave at some point, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. There’s no reason I should not play in Bruges for another three years,” he says, and those statements only make fans love him more. This reinforces in their eyes the fact that it does not deserve to lead the next generation of Belgium.
The road to these peaks is still long, but the potential is huge – and it is possible that the next step will be taken against the world champion tonight. If all goes well, de Catalarra will gradually fulfill all his dreams, and we will get the first superstar in his room hanging a poster of Lior Rapalov.