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The incredible rise of Cercle Bruges!

May 2017. Cercle Bruges, then in the Belgian second division, is moving into another dimension. “The general assembly of Cercle Bruges voted unanimously in favor of the acquisition of a majority stake by the Monegasque club”the two parties said in a press release. “This project is part of sports development through the policy of young talents in the making”, then specified the club of the Principality. Founded in 1899, the other Bruges team, which had only won 3 Belgian championships (1911, 1927, 1930) and two Belgian Cups (1927, 1985), returned to the lights after a certain anonymity.

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Long considered the B team of AS Monaco, the second club of Bruges manages to climb after two years in the first division. Some Monegasque talents are revealed (Nardi, Cardona, Biancone) and this good dynamic has been reinforced, a little more, since the arrival as technical director of the young and brilliant Mexican Carlos Avina Ibarrola (29 years old in 2020), in the summer of 2020, from America Mexico, where he was in charge of sports management and recruitment within the North American institution. We went to meet the latter to understand the change made by the Cercle over the past two seasons.

24 points out of 30 possible in the league!

Listening to him, everything has been done to perform. “There is an alignment of all sectors, staff and players towards the same philosophy, the same objectives and the same methodology, where we work on our principles of play”he explains. “This team was built to play that way, now that there’s a full roster on the daily it’s easier to bring out our strengths. The training, the physical periodization, the data, the video sessions, the whole methodology is about our playing principles.” And the least we can say is that after a few months of cashing in on this new method, the results for a few months are striking. “Over the last 10 matches, the Cercle have been able to take 24 points out of 30 and have even been the best team in the Jupiler League in recent days, with the best defense and the second best attack! We beat double defending champions Club Brugge for the first time since 2013 (2-0), and won against Anderlecht at home for the first time since 2009 (2-0). Against the current leaders of the championship, Union Saint-Gilloise, we led 0-2 for a long time before losing on the wire. »

Experience is perhaps what the Bruges team still lacks. But it is also a strength since the current 8th in the Jupiler Pro League is, with an average age of 23.28, the youngest team in the 10 best first divisions in Europe, as indicated by CIES in a recent report. A weapon for Carlos Avina. “We strive to make our “youth” element a strength. We have decided to make it our weapon and have built a solid physical base, which allows us to dominate our rivals on the physical level. Many observers have also noticed in our last matches that we have an extraordinary physical chest. We focus on the individual development of players in order to make their talents explode. Players like Matondo, Daland, Lopes Da Silva or Utkus need the right environment to let loose and show all their talent. »

“We are no longer the friendly team that everyone wants to play against”

And this has clearly been the case for a few weeks with a big change in mentality observed. Cercle Bruges has gone from victim to executioner. According to the Mexican technical director, the clubs that face his team do not arrive as confident as in the past. “There has been a clear change in mentality, this aggressive and dynamic style of play is opposed to how the Circle was perceived before. The Circle was always in the role of the victim. We want to be the aggressor and put our rivals under pressure. We are no longer the friendly team that everyone wants to play against. We give every team a hard time, regardless of the final score.”he adds before going further. “It’s about learning how to win to grow this young group, and developing a winning mentality. One cannot exist without the other. Stability and regularity in performance are important for the progress of our sports project. In the last two months we have proven that we can beat anyone and now we have to fight to keep this consistency in our results. »

Utkus and Popovic, symbol of the beautiful union between Bruges and Monaco

With 8 wins in the last 11 league matches, the opponents of the Cercle can only confirm. But behind this success, there is also AS Monaco. Usually, few satellite clubs do well with the master club. But here, everything has been done so that it is a win-win contract between each party. ASM brings its know-how, while the Belgian club, which has 15 nationalities in its workforce, is the nursery, the place where everything is possible for young locals (Vanhoutte, Decostere, Deman, Somers) only for Monegasque nuggets, details the former Club América. “ASM and Cercle Bruges are part of the same family. ASM is an important support for Cercle Bruges by showing direction, support and know-how in all areas. There is a great synergy between the two entities and a real alignment in the way we work, similarities in the game and in the pursuit of our objectives. The Cercle plays a very important role in the progression of young players, such as Biancone who is now playing for Troyes after two seasons in Bruges, or Pavlovic who played here before continuing his development with the AS Monaco group. We can also mention Cardona (Brest) and Nardi (Lorient), who had the opportunity to play and grow here before breaking into Ligue 1.

Today, two new youngsters from the AS Monaco Academy, Utkus and Popovic, have this opportunity to fully show their qualities with playing time and very interesting stats (1552 minutes – 3 goals for Utkus; 1041 minutes – 2 goals for Popovic). Carlos Avina also tells us an interesting anecdote about them. “They came here to try out after the technical team visited Monaco in May. We made a presentation to young people at the ASM training center. Edgar and Boris were very motivated to come to Bruges. Today, they are two pillars of the team despite their young age, are among the best defenders in the league and have scored important goals. » The method is therefore bearing fruit to the delight of the two teams who know more than any other what they have to gain in the operation. Will the beautiful story continue for Cercle Bruges? Answer Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against Standard Liège for this clash at the top of the Jupiler Pro League table. Because yes, it’s over, Cercle Bruges is no longer the friendly team everyone wants to play against…

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