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Have Club Brugge found their Clinton Mata replacement?



After three Belgian Pro League titles in a row and 197 appearances for Club Brugge, Angolan defender Clinton Mata left the club for Lyon to start the 2023/2024 season. Replacing Mata was always going to be difficult. He had been one of the best defenders in the Pro League for the majority of his time in Belgium, able to operate as a right-back or a central defender. However, in recent weeks, a replacement for Mata has begun to emerge at the club.

Kyriani Sabbe made a handful of appearances last season for Club Brugge, but this year he has had a much bigger impact on the side. He was excellent against PAOK in the recent Europa Conference League quarter-finals, grabbing an assist to add to the two he has in the Pro League. At just 19, Sabbe has brought youthful enthusiasm to the team. He still makes mistakes, as many young players do, but his willingness to try and rectify these has really stood out this season. Even if a winger beats him out wide, he works just as hard to get back and try and protect Club’s goal.

The Belgian youth international has shown promising signs, and now it is up to caretaker head coach Nicky Hayen to trust Sabbe for the rest of the season. The play-offs and the Conference League semi-finals provide a great testing ground for the teenager to experience high intensity football. Next season, Sabbe should be the sides starting right-back.

Too often this season Rony Deila forced Maxim De Cuyper, a naturally left-sided player, into the right-back role. This has been to accommodate both him and Bjorn Meijer in the side. Sabbe looks far more natural in the role and deserves to be the sides first choice in this position. De Cuyper is far more effective on the left-hand side as both a defender and going forward. In the summer, the club may have to decide which of De Cuyper and Meijer they can afford to keep and which they need to cash in on now.

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