Realistic, communicative and tactically strong: these assets make Union coach Karel Geraerts the best football coach in Belgium

First season as head coach in the Jupiler Pro League and Karel Geraerts can immediately put the Raymond Goethals trophy on his chimney. — © BELGIUM

Union starts the last straight line of the season with excellent papers: three points behind leader Genk in the Jupiler Pro League and in the quarter finals of the Europa League. The people of Brussels have coach Karel Geraerts to thank for this: the 41-year-old Limburger is doing excellently in his debut season and was therefore rewarded last Monday with the Raymond Goethals trophy, the prize for the best Belgian coach of the past year. But what makes Geraerts such a good trainer?

Thomas Cami

1. Tactically strong

You have those coaches who set up their team in advance, but don’t know too well how to intervene in unforeseen circumstances. Karel Geraerts is certainly not like that. The Limburger dared to change the system several times during the match, and that switch usually worked out well. The sacred 3-5-2, which was installed under Mazzu and on which Geraerts elaborated, can therefore be exchanged in emergency situations. Like the 1-3 deficit in the group match against Union Berlin in the Europa League, for example: Geraerts threw the 3-5-2 overboard and switched to a 4-3-3. “To be able to put more pressure”, was the explanation. And that paid off: Union pulled out another 3-3 draw and was so sure of European wintering. Geraerts also dares to make good adjustments in the competition: in the match against Anderlecht he switched systems when he trailed 1-0, Union eventually won the match 1-3. Impressive.

2. Talk, talk, talk

One thing he undoubtedly learned from Mazzu is that talking to players is important. Very important. It is crucial that all players at Union – including the bench seats who sometimes get less work – feel good. And Geraerts, who also acts as a people manager, knows this too. He stands like a block behind his players. Also behind Lapoussin, who after his incident a few months ago – he refused an alcohol test when he was behind the wheel – was again discredited last week when he was kicked out of the center of Madagascar by (then) national coach Nicolas for “behavioural reasons”. Dupuis. Geraerts states that he is 100 percent behind Lapoussin, and the Limburger will not impose any sanction on him. Not that Geraerts would not dare, but because he has spoken with both the coach and Loïc and he believes that Lapoussin cannot be blamed. It is clear that Geraerts has strong communication skills.

3. Realistic

“We take it game by game.” It is perhaps the biggest cliché that a football coach can say, but it typifies Geraerts’ attitude. He wants to win every game, every game he demands the maximum from his players. He does not look beyond the next match, the players could just get tired if they only see how many matches they have to play again. And he doesn’t impose unrealistic goals such as a title on his group either: winning the next match is always the goal. And that usually works.

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