Kevin De Bruyne is arguably the most successful of over 50 Belgians to have played in the Bundesliga. - © DFB
Kevin De Bruyne is arguably the most successful of over 50 Belgians to have played in the Bundesliga. - © DFB

Openda, De Bruyne and the Bundesliga's Belgian Seven


Belgium will be among the contenders for title glory in Germany, especially with the electric Kevin De Bruyne hungry to star. Yet the awesome attacker is not the only Red Devil to have rocked the Bundesliga down through the years ...

Loïs Openda

Arriving at RB Leipzig on a five-year contracht from Lens just last summer to replace the previous term's Bundesliga Player of the Season Christopher Nkunku, forward Openda enjoyed a spectaular start to life in the Bundesliga. The 24-year-old weighed in with an incredible 31 goal involvements (24 goals, seven assists) in his very first season in Germany. In what was a hyper-competitive race for top-scorer honours in 2023/24, the Liège-born striker ended third behind Bayern Munich's Harry Kane (36 goals) and Serhou Guirassy (28) of Stuttgart in the goal charts and he won praise from near and far in his role in helping Die Roten Bullen to a fourth-placed Bundesliga finish.

Boasting the record of the highest-scoring Belgian in a single Bundesliga season - overtaking compatriot Emile Mpenza's previous best mark - Openda said he feels right at home at Leipzig and is looking forward to leading the team's challenge on the domestic front and in Europe after UEFA Euro 2024. "Since the first day, it felt perfect for me at the club," the striker told Leipzig's official website. "The club, the team and the entire staff put me in a good condition to perform on a high level. Everything here is set to maximize the talent of all players. It's really important for me to feel good and to feel like I am at home. If everything is set up around me, I think I can do just what I'm doing now. And I know that I can do more for sure."

Watch: The best of Loïs Openda

Kevin De Bruyne

Now unquestionably one of the world's greatest players, De Bruyne’s footballing journey to the top has been a fascinating one. His god-like status with Belgium mirrors the divine air he currently carries in the sky-blue of Manchester City, while there was also a time, not so long ago, that the mesmerising attacking midfielder was the toast of the Bundesliga.

First arriving in Germany with Werder Bremen on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea in 2012, a then 21-year-old De Bruyne quickly began winning over fans with his direct running and eye for goal.

Not long after making his debut for Die Grün-Weißen, the attacker netted in successive games against Hannover and VfB Stuttgart while as the season advanced, his services were used through the middle, on either flank and even as a striker. A couple of goals in Bremen's final fixtures went a long way to helping the club retain their top-flight status.

Watch: Kevin De Bruyne, made in the Bundesliga

A brief return to Chelsea didn't quite work out for the future Champions League winner, yet the English Premier League side’s loss was Wolfsburg's windfall. Agreeing to a permanent move to Lower Saxony in the winter of 2014, De Bruyne went on to enjoy UEFA Europa League qualification with his new teammates, who celebrated a fifth-place Bundesliga finish.

That tasty starter was merely the warm-up to a phenomenal 2014/15 campaign in which Wolfsburg would win the DFB Cup and finish as Bundesliga runners-up, earning the Wolves a place in the UEFA Champions League.

Their star, and indeed the best player in the land that term, was De Bruyne. The Belgian was on fire, thumping home three doubles that included a brace in a 4-1 win against Bayern Munich while he also netted in the German cup showpiece triumph against Borussia Dortmund in Berlin.

Following a campaign in which he ended with 16 goals and 28 assists (with a record 21 of those in the Bundesliga) in all competitions, De Bruyne was hailed as the finest player in the German top flight. A move to City soon followed, as did adulation with Belgium – for whom he has now scored 27 goals in 100 games - multiple national titles and individual accolades. Yet for his electrical displays and game-changing skills, De Bruyne will never be forgotten as a legend that lit up the Bundesliga.

Thorgan Hazard

The ex-Dortmund attacker began to emerge from older brother Eden's shadow during a breakout spell at Borussia Mönchengladbach, producing 46 goals and 44 assists in just under 200 appearances for the Foals between 2014 and 2019.

Linking up with the likes of Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus at Dortmund, Hazard got his hands on the Supercup in his first season at the club, followed by the DFB Cup in his second. He also scooped the March 2020 Goal of the Month award for a stunner against former flame Gladbach.

Watch: EA Sports Recreated Goals - Thorgan Hazard vs. Gladbach

It was during his time in Germany that Hazard, previously of Zulte Waregem, Lens and Chelsea, became a regular fixture with the senior Belgium national team. He was part of the squad that finished third at the 2018 World Cup, and edged closer to 50 international caps with appearances at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.

Following a loan spell with PSV, Hazard ended his association with Dortmund when he signed for Anderlecht on a three-year-deal in 2023. 

Axel Witsel

Witsel won league titles with Standard Liege and Zenit St. Petersburg – as well as playing for Portuguese giants Benfica and in China – but says that Dortmund is the most impressive club team he has been part of.

"In my career, yeah, because it’s the first time, for me, I’m in the top level," he told after making the switch in 2018.

Witsel arrived at Dortmund after a glorious summer with Belgium, who finished third at the 2018 World Cup after falling narrowly to eventual champions France in the semi-finals. Any suggestion that the Liege native might suffer a post-World Cup hangover was quickly dispelled. He came off the bench to rescue Lucien Favre's side in the DFB Cup on his club debut against Greuther Fürth, before scoring on his Bundesliga bow in a 4-1 win over RB Leipzig.

The 131-time international spent four seasons with BVB, making 145 appearances, including 105 in the Bundesliga. He also added the 2019/20 Supercup and 2020/21 DFB Cup to his collection, playing in the same team as Hazard, before leaving the club in 2022.

"They will always be in my heart," the now Atletico Madrid midfielder told Dortmund's Matchday Magazine. "I don’t know, in my future, if I will have the same kind of crazy atmosphere that you have when you play at home [for Dortmund]."

Daniel Van Buyten

Somewhat surprisingly, Van Buyten began his career as a striker, until the coaching staff at Charleroi spotted his potential as a central defender. Later impressing at Marseille – where he was a Ligue 1 defender of the year – and then briefly at Manchester City, the goalscoring defender had no sooner rocked up at Hamburg in 2004 when he was made club captain. Some 34 games, five goals and a UEFA Intertoto Cup win later, the physically imposing defensive workhorse was the toast of the Volksparkstadion.

Daniel Van Buyten won a continental treble with Bayern Munich in 2012/13. - imago

It was to get even sweeter for the Red Shorts and Van Buyten in the following campaign, with a third-place Bundesliga finish propelling the club to the UEFA Champions League qualifiers. His 27 games that season piqued the interest of giants Bayern, whose then coach Ottmar Hitzfeld soon landed his man.

Despite a slow beginning to life on Bavaria, Van Buyten was used as part of a three-man defence alongside Lucio and Martin Demichelis in 2008/09 before becoming a more regular fixture under Louis van Gaal the following season.

The titles began to flow and by the end of an illustrious career in Bavaria, Van Buyten – who competed at two FIFA World Cups for Belgium – had won four Bundesliga and DFB Cup doubles and became the first Belgian to win the UEFA Champions League in 2013, Eric Gerets having won the tournament in its previous guise.

Jean-Marie Pfaff

In any list of the all-time world's best goalkeepers, the name Jean-Marie Pfaff will always rank highly. A Belgian Footballer of the Year with SK Beveren at a young age, the talented custodian joined Bayern – where the legendary Sepp Maier had retired just a few years earlier - after the 1982 World Cup.

Jean-Marie Pfaff spent six seasons between the goal-posts at Bayern. - imago

Despite conceding a bizarre own goal on his debut for the Bundesliga giants, Pfaff soon went on to atone for that error in his 155 subsequent top-flight games.

Part of a superb Bayern team that boasted the likes of Lothar Matthäus and Andreas Brehme, the goalkeeper – who appeared in four major international tournaments for Belgium - picked up three Bundesliga titles and won two DFB Cups during his six-year stay in Bavaria. He finally hung up his gloves after a long and distinguished career in 1990.

Marc Wilmots

Considered a giant among fans of Schalke, 'Willi the fighting pig,' as Wilmots became affectionately known among supporters, enjoyed two very successful spells with the Gelsenkirchen outfit.

Marc Wilmots enjoyed two stints in the Bundesliga with Schalke. - imago images

In his first, he netted 21 goals in 104 Bundesliga matches, yet his status rose to that of hero when he not only scored in the 1997 UEFA Cup final first leg against Inter Milan, the Belgian also netted the winning spot-kick in the penalty shootout following the return game in Italy.

Returning to Schalke after a stint at Bordeaux, the attacking midfielder – who was present at four World Cups, playing in three – was part of Die Knappen's successful DFB Cup run that concluded with a 4-2 final victory against Bayer Leverkusen.