RB Leipzig’s goalkeeping future appears to be in safe hands after they secured the services of Maarten Vandevoort from KRC Genk, the 20-year-old signing a contract that will begin in 2024 and run for five years until 2029.
Club: RB Leipzig (from 2024)
Country: Belgium (U21, 7 caps)
Vandevoordt made his professional debut on 24th September 2019 at just 17 years and seven months old, keeping a clean sheet in a 3-0 Belgian cup win over KSK Ronse. Less than three months later, Vandevoordt made his debut in the Belgian top flight, and just three days later, he was making his bow in the UEFA Champions League as a record-breaker. An injury to regular No.1 Danny Vukovic gifted the rookie an opportunity to become the youngest debutant goalkeeper in the competition's history, and he has not looked back since.
He duly became a regular for Genk in February 2021 and helped the Belgian side lift the domestic Cup. He missed just three of 48 games in all competitions in the 2021/22 season, keeping 11 clean sheets and establishing himself as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper, continuing to keep guard when fit in 2022/23.
In April 2022, it was announced that he would be joining Leipzig from 2024, signing a five-year contract with the Bundesliga club.
His statistics for the first half of the 2022/23 season make for impressive reading too, with a save percentage of 77.8 per cent making him the most reliable goalkeeper across the first 17 games (from the most shots faced, 63. He conceded just 15 goals in those games, at an average of 0.88 per game.
Internationally, Vandevoordt has represented Belgium at all youth levels from U15 through to U21, for a total of 35 appearances, and could well earn his first senior call-up as part of a reshuffle following the World Cup.
Vandevoordt was also the only goalkeeper named on the 2021 NXGN list of the 50 best teenage footballers in the world.
Plays a bit like: Thibaut Courtois
It may not be a surprise, given the shot-stopping abilities of Vandevoordt, that he and Real Madrid custodian Thibaut Courtois both learned their trade under the same goalkeeper coach, with Genk’s Guy Martens previously producing the current Belgium No.1, as well as Wolfsburg’s Koen Casteels. Although not quite as tall as his compatriot (6’3”/1.92m compared to 6’6”/2m), he has a similarly sleek frame which he knows how to move about, and not just to make saves. Since ‘that’ mistake (see below) with which he marked his Champions League debut, he has developed his skills in the mould of a more Manuel Neuer-inspired modern day goalkeeper, happy and comfortable to be brought into the game by his defenders.
Did you know?
When Vandevoordt took to the field for Genk against Napoli in the UEFA Champions League in 2019, he made history by becoming the youngest goalkeeper ever to have played a game in the history of the competition aged 17 years and 287 days. He actually became the first goalkeeper under the age of 18 to feature in Europe’s elite club competition, beating his compatriot Mile Svilar, who was 18 years and 52 days old when he played for Benfica against Manchester United.
It was not, however, a debut to remember, as he conceded four goals, the first after just a handful of minutes when he was robbed of possession when trying to dribble out from the back. "I quickly got over that mistake,” Vandevoordt later told HLN. “I think I came out of this whole story stronger mentally. I now know what to do better and differently. I will never take such a risk again. If I could turn back time, I would kick the ball away immediately."
What they are saying:
"I’m very happy about my upcoming transfer to RB Leipzig. The club have a clear idea of football and have become one of the best names in Europe in recent years, especially for young players. It really inspires me and I’m really looking forward to my time as a Red Bull.” – Maarten Vandevoordt
"At just 20 years old, Maarten is already among the best goalkeepers in Belgium. With his brave and offensive playing style, he is a perfect fit to the football that we play at RB Leipzig. We’re looking forward to an exciting young goalkeeper. We want to develop him here and bring him to an even higher level." – Frederik Gössling, Leipzig goalkeeping coach
"Maarten Vandevoordt’s transfer allows us to secure a top transfer for the future at an early stage and fill the incredibly important goalkeeping position with an excellent prospect in our long-term squad planning." – Christopher Vivell, Leipzig technical director
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