Belgium were for a long time the No.1 ranked team in FIFA rankings. Part of the reason for that was their exceptional defence and the profile of players they had in those positions. Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld were the main pillars of the Belgium defence.
However, they have an ageing squad with many players way past their prime, especially in the defensive third. A new Belgium golden generation is emerging, but for now 25-year-old centre-back Jason Denayer took this opportunity and has become the go-to defender for Belgium, and has replicated that form on club level with Lyon. Denayer though is a free agent now after his contract expired after the end of last season and Wolves have set their sights on him.
The Premier League club are looking into the transfer market for some late reinforcements after a poor start to the 2022/23 season. The striker situation looks set to be resolved soon with the signing of Sasa Kalajdzic. Bolstering of midfield was done with the Matheus Nunes signing, but the centre of defence looked light.
The Midlands club have lost both Conor Coady and Willy Boly to Everton and Nottingham Forest respectively. With all that in mind, manager Bruno Lage has identified Jason Denayer as his key target for the last few days left in the summer 2022 transfer window.
Denayer has spent most of his playing career working without the deserved recognition. After demonstrating his quality on four different loan deals, he failed to find his place in Pep Guardiola’s multi-million pounds backline. He finally found his way in France with Olympique Lyonnais and Wolves will be another enticing destination for the Belgian.
Who is Jason Denayer?
Born in the Belgian capital, Jason Denayer found his future career at the young age of six. After spending some time at FC Ganshoren and later moving to Anderlecht academy, Denayer was set to become a forward and learnt his craft on the ball for seven years.
This turned out helpful when he moved to the JMG Academy in Lier, Belgium at the age of 13. The renowned academy set up by former French player Jean-Marc Guillou decided to turn him into a defender. Denayer credits his time at the academy as the most important phase of his career that helped him shape into the player he is today.
In 2013, Denayer decided to move to England and try his trade in English football. After a failed trial at Liverpool, Denayer was finally given his first professional contract by Manchester City. He joined their academy and played in the U21 development league. His coaches noticed his progress which also earned him a loan move to Celtic the next year.
At Celtic, he played an important role alongside Virgil Van Dijk in the club’s triumph in the Scottish Premiership and the Scottish League Cup. He was awarded the Scotland Young Player of the Year.
Also read: The “Ange-Ball” revolution at Celtic
He was expecting a chance to play for the Manchester City first-team but what followed were three more full-season loan deals. Twice at the Turkish club Galatasaray and once with Sunderland before finally deciding to find a permanent home.
He was signed by Lyon in the summer of 2018 for a fee of €6.5m and signed a four-year contract. He had an impressive first season making demonstrating his colossal passing range. According to FBref.com, Denayer had a pass success rate of 94.5%, with an 89% accuracy in passes launched across the field. The figure only went higher in the coming seasons and Wolves will have the perfect player who is already accustomed to playing in a back-3 system.
Jason Denayer scout report
Denayer is primarily known for his action when in possession, but his defensive traits have also developed, although at a slower pace. The 25-year-old defender is usually placed as the left-sided centre-back in a four-man defence but can also play as a defensive midfielder to start attacking transitions with his acute passing. Denayer is also comfortable playing in a 3 man defence as a central defender.
He likes to come forward and play with the ball, helping his team build attacks with his ball-carrying ability and ball control. He is great at progressive passes that break the opposition lines.
Even while defending duels, he looks rather calm and wins more than half of his attempted duels.
Denayer is not one of those scrappy defenders who dives into challenges and clears the ball at the first instance. Lyon manager Rudi Garcia, just like his predecessor Sylvinho, allowed the Belgian to take control of the situation and use his vision and passing range to break out attacks.
Despite having an ordinary physique compared to his competitors, the former Lyon centre-half has a commanding presence in both boxes. He played alongside one of the best defenders in the world albeit suffering from an injury, Virgil Van Dijk, and kept the fanbase divided on who’s the better player amongst the two. Jason Denayer is certainly one of the best ball-playing centre-backs in the world and can take the next step in his career.
He needs some improvement on the defensive side, which might be a concern for potential buyers. Still only 27, he has the potential and time on his hands to become a top defender.
The biggest positive of having a player like Jason Denayer is the composure you get while turning defence into attacks with his adept passing.
Denayer has always played alongside more experienced and composed defenders which critics say have covered his defensive inabilities. He needs to display his leadership ability in order to become a more complete defender.
Despite all his drawbacks, Jason Denayer is one of the most highly rated with respect to his ball-playing ability. If the Belgian lives up to the expectations, he can surely attract a range of clubs if not Wolves, looking to acquire his services and help Lyon gain a great profit margin on his deal.
Jason Denayer Wolves transfer news
Distribution being his speciality, Jason Denayer is suitable for both possession-based as well as counter-attacking teams. But lack of defensive prowess might limit the possibility of either counter-attacking teams or those with three-man defences like his national side. And Burno Lage’s Wolves are a similar team.
He might not get to play Champions League as he used to at Lyon, but the prospect of playing in the Premier League is too tough to reject. Wolves have also offered the Belgian defender and free agent a 3-year contract. As of now, there aren’t any other clubs in competition to sign the Belgian, but things can turn around after his successful spell with Lyon.