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Career, potential, character… everything you need to know about Loïs Openda

He is the main rookie of this transfer window 2022 edition in Lens. Lois Openda arrived in France through the front door. But he still remains unknown in France. therefore contacted Christopher Franken, head of the football section of the daily La Derniere Heure (Belgium). The journalist followed the course of Lois Openda through the seasons. Openda has just arrived here from Bruges, except that he has played very little there. Why did it get stuck in Belgium with the pros?

CF : He was still very young at that time, he was not yet 18 years old. And when he arrived, he only played a few ends of the match without having the possibility of starting. It’s always difficult to shine in these cases. The style of play in Bruges did not suit him. In Belgium, they are the most successful team, they have a dominant game and need a powerful attacker, almost a pivot to turn the game around, which Loïs Openda is not. He is smaller and needs space to express himself. He will be stronger in a team that has a transition game, a team where things have to go quickly.

Lois Openda in training.

And that’s what he managed to find in the Netherlands, at Vitesse Arnhem?

CF: Yes, that’s what he got there. Vitesse is a club that plays underdogs all season. It’s a team that plays with the desire to keep its clean sheets But it was also Openda’s great challenge. We have often seen attackers who were flops at home and who were a hit in the Netherlands. It’s just another way to play. With us, in Belgium, it’s more about organizing, a bit like in Ligue 1.

Precisely, he arrives in Ligue 1 with a player status to discover, can you decipher it for us?

CF: He’s a real striker, not a fake 9. He’s had a sense of goal since he was little, already with the youngsters of Standard de Liège he scored a lot. He is an attacker who knows how to position himself. Ideally, he will be better in a system with a taller second striker beside him. He needs a team that plays and projects quickly.

Loïs Openda has officially been Lensois since July 6.

And with the internationals how is it going?

CF: In selection, he is the top scorer of our U21 team. He played 3 seasons with the hopefuls but this team did not play like the A. We wanted to see him all the same at the big boys. For a long time, we wondered why he didn’t have a chance, but coach Roberto Martinez is clever. Openda is not a real double for Lukaku unlike Batshuayi for example. Except that it had become impossible not to select.

He did all the youth classes with Belgium, he has just been called up in A, finally he is a player who is programmed to explode in broad daylight?

CF: Yes and no. Before he was scouted by Standard de Liège, he played with the city’s other club, Royal Club football de Liège. And he arrived at Standard when he was already 12 or 13, and it’s a bit late for Belgium. With us, generally, future footballers are spotted at the age of 8-9 years. It took some time for Openda and it was small. He didn’t have a chance right away except that he always believed in his abilities. He always said to himself “I can succeed in football”. That’s why he left for Bruges afterwards. He made the effort by going to the other side of the country. And with this choice, he shows that he is a boy with ambition.

The first minutes of Loïs Openda with Lens.

Have you ever seen Lens play, in terms of atmosphere, system, is it the right choice for him?

CF: Loïs Openda has thought a lot about her future. He doesn’t say to himself, I’m going as high as possible right away. He had other possibilities but he studied the different systems. Lens works well and sometimes surprisingly recruits in France with low value players. Openda fits into this mould. Now, in France, with stronger defenders, will he manage to turn a corner? It’s a different philosophy from the Netherlands. At 22, he knew he had to do something to evolve, he is ambitious. It’s good that he chooses a top 5 championship, I won’t have seen him in Germany. But with Lens, he remains close to Belgium. And since he’s a very family person, he doesn’t stray too far from his family. I’m quite optimistic and curious to see him play, because it’s with Lens.

Do you think Lens is the right step to take?

CF: In Bruges he still had a contract and the coach has just changed. Carl Hoefkens worked a lot with young people and he was ready to say to himself, ok the player we trust him. But for Openda, it was very clear from the start, he wanted to leave. He knew that Bruges did not suit his game. He has the potential to play at a very high level. Except that he has the same ambition as Lens. The Lensois board knows very well that it will be able to resell it for a higher price in a few years. And he knows it’s a beautiful showcase. But Ligue 1 is difficult, we see attackers who fail or do not shine as much as they would have liked. I am confident but first curious.

And what image does it have in Belgium?

CF: Finally, it is still very little known. I am certain that in Liège he could walk around without being recognized. He played little in Bruges before leaving for the Netherlands. And contrary to what one might think, Belgium follows the Eredivisie very little. In Lens, Openda knows that it will be more visible in every way. But he is above all a balanced boy, he is very family. Will he be able to succeed like Jonathan David when he moved from La Gantoise to Lille? We’ll see, we’ll have to be patient and give him time.


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