The RC Genk goalkeeper talent factory explained.
Updated: Jul 20
You don't need to follow football that closely to know RC Genk has been pumping out some goalkeeper talents in recent years.
Racing Genk did not steal the status of an outstanding training club. Thibaut Courtois and Koen Casteels were fighting each other in the shadow of Davino Verhulst and Logan Bailly. Three boys from their own youth system. Other names are Bolat, Jackers, and Coucke, ... A prime example is of course Thibaut Courtois, who has been in the Genk youth academy since he was seven years old, already a goalkeeper in the champions' year at 18, and is now one of the best goalkeepers in the world with Real Madrid.
The big secret of that Genk success formula? Quality staff members and the balls to put the youngsters under the crossbar.
Our philosophy is that we put them under the crossbar, young or not. We fully opt for proactive goalkeepers, who constantly anticipate and try to prevent danger. That also means they have to be very strong on the pitch. Between the ages of six and 10, we don't even work with goalkeepers. They are liberos, who are allowed to touch the ball with their hands only in case of highest emergency. -Guy Martens, head goalkeeper trainer at RC Genk
We know all know Maarten Vandevoordt, the first goalkeeper of Genk and Sorare ambassador. We've made a big article about him last year. Read the article about Maarten Vandevoordt here. Leipzig has agreed on a deal to sign Vandevoordt in the summer of 2024 – more than two years in the future. It’s rare you see a deal set up so far down the line but Leipzig has decided they don’t want to risk missing out on Vandevoordt. The idea will be that the Belgian taken ends up taking over from Peter Gulacsi in the Leipzig goal, and he may be primed for that in a couple of years.
The second goalkeeper at RC Genk is Tobe Leysen. Leysen was recently named by John Nellis Sorare content creator as a big prospect to keep an eye on. You can read our interview with John Nellis here. Leysen is 20 years old and currently plays for Jong Genk. Jong Genk plays in the Belgian second division and is currently second to last. He is famed as a big talent in Belgium, it is hard to know if this label is justified or not just hype as he comes from the respected RC Genk youth system. Let's look at the facts. He recently renewed his contract to 2025, that's one year after Vandevoordt transfers to RB Leipzig. In the last 15 months with the U21 national team, he wasn't called up by coach Jacky Mathijssen. The goalkeepers for the Belgian u21 national team are Vandevoordt, Senne Lammens (Club Brugge but might make a transfer soon), and Maxime Delanghe (Lierse). It might be a sign to keep in mind.
Only just turned 17 - in July - but is already considered the next in line of goalkeeping talents from the RC Genk academy. Mike Penders has extended his contract until mid-2025. That he is a great talent is something you can take literally. Penders has Courtois-like features: At his young age, he is already almost two meters tall. He also has steel nerves.
There are also other goalkeepers under contract at RC Genk. Vic Chambaere and Zenzo De Boeck. Although Chambaere played in every national youth team for Belgium, he seems to be just a step below Leysen and might be surpassed by Penders in the picking order soon.