Belgium, located in Northwestern Europe is renowned for their crispy waffles, sweet chocolate and smooth beer – albeit recently, they’ve produced some of world football’s rising talent. Being ranked 15th in the world by FIFA is an honour, considering it’s the highest position they’ve ever reached on the measuring stick of international sides. But that’s not all – the Belgians currently lead their World Cup Qualifying group via goal difference, and are likely to secure a place in next years World Cup that is hosted in Brazil.
One of the main narratives in the Premier League this season has been the emergence of young Belgian talent. Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Jan Vertonghen have all enjoyed remarkable debut seasons. These Belgian players have dominated headlines throughout the year, but there’s one Belgian player that’s always overlooked – that man is Kevin Mirallas.
25-year-old, Mirallas, joined Everton this summer for £6m, as he impressed many eyes around Europe last season, scoring 20 goals for Greek side Olympiakos. The Belgian has endured a protracted road to stardom, playing for four different clubs since the age of 16 – but he came to life during his spell at Olympiakos scoring 34 goals in two seasons.
Mirallas’ standout performances throughout the second half of this season, earned him a surprise spot in the Belgian starting line up against the USA. The Belgian attacker was eager to impress, and he did, scoring his seventh career goal for Belgium this week, as they cruised to a 4-2 victory. The Belgian attacker pounced on a Tim Howard rebound, and completed an audacious chip over his Everton teammate to open the scoring.
Across Europe, Vincent Kompany, Moussa Dembele, Axel Witsel and Thibaut Courtois grab all the headlines, while the aforementioned Belgian stars in England have overshadowed Mirallas. Many were unaware that several clubs across Europe sought after the Belgian attacker over the summer, including Arsenal, but Mirallas felt that life at Goodison Park was best for his career.
”I was convinced that what was important for me at this stage of my career, embarking on new league, is to get plenty of time on the field,” Mirallas said.
”I had a possibility of playing more games and longer periods with Everton,” he said.
The Belgian attacker enjoyed an exceptional full debut for the Toffees, recording two goals and two assists against Leyton Orient in a Capital One Cup match. Mirallas’ great start in the Premier League was short lived as he was sidelined with a hamstring injury – frankly injuries led to the Belgian’s inconsistent performances throughout the first-half of the season. Although Everton possesses quality Premier League players in Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar and Victor Anichebe, the Toffees missed the Belgian’s presence throughout the season.
“We’ve missed Mirallas giving us another edge. It’s shown in one or two results. We’ve missed him too long. It’s a problem,” Moyes said.
He [Mirallas] was a big part of what we achieved in that early part of the season when we were at our best and played some good stuff,” he said.
The versatile Belgian attacker, who is usually positioned higher up the field, has featured on both flanks, as a striker and as a No. 10 this season. Mirallas prefers to play on the left flank, as he’s able to cut in on his favoured right foot – but the Belgian has made most of his appearances on the right, due to Pienaar and Baines’ prolific partnership on the left. The Belgian often drifts centrally, allowing Seamus Coleman to surge forward, but it also frees up space for Mirallas to operate in.
Mirallas ended the season with six Premier League goals – including a 70-yard run against Stoke, and two goals against West Ham in Moyes’ last match as Toffee’s manager at Goodison Park. The Belgian attacker is a streaky player that either has a significant impact on the match or is virtually anonymous.
With his blistering pace, he’s capable of skipping past players with ease.
Mirallas is also a threat picking up the ball between the lines and linking play with his teammates – the Belgian is a proficient passer of the ball, but with Everton frequently playing through Fellaini and down the left, Mirallas’ touches on the ball are limited.
When played out wide the Belgian can sometimes be isolated – Mirallas has more of an impact playing as a No. 10, where he is allowed more freedom to create chances, play incisive passes in the final third and score goals.
Frankly, some of the Belgian’s best games were when Baines and Fellaini were unavailable, or when his Belgian teammate played in a deeper role.
Everton striker Nikica Jelavic has failed to replicate his goal-scoring form of last season, which has made Mirallas’ inclusion to the squad so vital. Mirallas’ time at Goodison Park has been effective thus far, but there’s room for improvement – staying fit, producing consistent performances and finding ways to take control of games will be the Belgians aim next season.
With Baines and Fellaini possibly exiting Goodison Park this summer, Mirallas may be the focal point of Everton’s attack going forward. The Belgian is entering a significant period in his career, as he’ll be aiming to improve his game, with hopes of being included in the Belgium World Cup squad – if they qualify.
Mirallas has been a positive signing for Everton – like many of his countrymen, his first season in England has been successful.
“What he has got in abundance though is pace, ability, he can score goals, he can take you on and he can play in two or three different positions,” Moyes said.
Mirallas adds another element to the Everton attack – he can play as a winger that skips past defenders, a No. 10 that creates chances and spreads incisive passes in the final third, or an advanced wide player that gets on the end of plays and scores goals.
The Belgian’s versatility makes him one of Everton’s pivotal players going forward. He possesses all the abilities to become a Premier League star – but will Mirallas rise to the occasion?