Matte Smets joins Genk instead of Anderlecht: Saint-Trond does not digest and makes it known

After coach Thorsten Fink and midfielder Jarne Steuckers, it is Matte Smets’ turn to leave Saint-Trond for Genk. Racing confirmed on Saturday that the central defender has signed a four-year contract.

Smets, 20, went through the youth ranks of Genk and Saint-Trond, who integrated him into the A squad in January 2023. At the Canaries, the defender was a mainstay to the point of not missing a single minute, both in the league and in the Belgian Cup. The U21 international has finally played 58 games for the Stayen club, including 42 last season, taking only one yellow card. Smets finished second in the “Talent of the Season” trophy, behind Bilal El Khannouss.

“It’s a proof of his footballing intelligence,” said Dimitri de Condé, head of football at RC Genk. “We are happy to have been able to convince him to come back to where it all began for him. With his flair, his vision of the game and his good long balls, he is an excellent asset for our defence.”

Smets is Racing’s third summer acquisition after Steuckers and the Venezuelan Adrian Palacios. “From the first contact, I had a good feeling with RC Genk, who showed that they absolutely wanted me. In addition to that, the coach’s confidence also encouraged me to choose Genk, where I will take a new step in my career. I can’t wait to fight for prizes. I would like to thank Saint-Trond and its supporters for the excellent years spent,” said Smets.

The club reacts

Genk announced on Saturday that the 20-year-old central defender was going to sign a four-year contract at the Cegeka Arena. Racing also snatched midfielder Jarne Steuckers and coach Thorsten Fink from the Canaries in mid-season. Each time, Saint-Trond has issued a statement to reassure its supporters about the arrival of quality replacements. But today, the announcement has a toxic side.

“We learned today that Matte Smets has decided to activate the clause in his contract and be transferred to KRC Genk,” the Canaries declare at the beginning of their message. “Smets was a talent who has blossomed in recent years in the warm environment of STVV’s youth academy. He was also immediately adopted by the first team and became a fan favourite. The fact that, despite offers from other clubs, he has chosen this transfer precisely hurts us as a club and as a region. But it is Matte’s decision and we must accept it”.

“We are hurt, but a wounded animal is very dangerous. As a club, we are drawing extra motivation from this. Concretely, we are looking to the future and working on short-term defensive reinforcement.”

At the bottom of the message, STVV has posted a photoshopped image of Smets, showing him dressed in a Roman robe and wearing a laurel wreath on his head. The image is accompanied by the Latin phrase “tu quoque, fili mi” (“you too, my son?”). Tradition has it that the Roman general and politician Julius Caesar uttered these words (in Greek) just before being assassinated, discovering among his assailants the face of his protégé Brutus. A historical reference loaded, therefore, from Saint-Trond.

Written by Mike Stempel

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