Belgium will deploy Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne as a playmaker behind two strikers at next month’s European Championship, said coach Marc Wilmots after naming a preliminary 24-man squad on Thursday.
Wilmots has included eight forwards and is planning an attacking approach when his side meet Italy, Ireland and Sweden in Group E in France.
“Eden (Hazard) is the captain but we have many leaders in the team,” he told a news conference. “I want De Bruyne to play in a number 10 role, he has all the qualities and will play with two other strikers.”
De Bruyne has had a sparkling first season at City since joining in a big-money move from Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg.
Belgium named nine defenders due to injury concerns over Nicolas Lombaerts and Thomas Vermaelen. The squad must be reduced to 23 players by May 31.
Wilmots is expecting injured Liverpool striker Divock Origi to make a full recovery before the deadline.
“He’ll be back quickly and brings speed and penetration which is the way I want to play,” added Wilmots who has put Tottenham Hotspur’s Nacer Chadli and Kevin Miralles of Everton on standby.
The Belgian coach added the injury that has sidelined captain Vincent Kompany was “a blow to both the player and the team”.
“I feel very sorry for him to miss out on the European Championship,” said Wilmots. “He is our leader.”
However, he denied media reports that Kompany would be used at the tournament behind the scenes.
“I don’t see a role or plan for him except maybe to visit us at the hotel,” said Wilmots.
Belgium begin their preparations with a training camp next week before meeting Switzerland, Finland and Norway in friendlies.
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Jean-Francois Gillett (Mechelen), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Jason Denayer (Galatasaray), Bjorn Engels (Club Bruges), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Jordan Lukaku (Oostende), Thomas Meunier (Club Bruges), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Midfielders: Moussa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Radja Nainggolan (AS Roma), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg)
Forwards: Michy Batshauyi (Olympique Marseille), Christian Benteke (Liverpool), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Divock Origi (Liverpool).