Brecht Dejaegere: Unveiling Charlotte FC's Charismatic Number 10 and Family-Centric Leader

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Brecht Dejaegere (Deh-ya-ga-re), seated across from me virtually through a laptop screen, is wearing a vibrant yellow adidas top and flashes a welcoming smile that matches the warmth of his shirt. Dejaegere is Charlotte FC’s newest number 10, officially joining the Club in the middle of the summer transfer window.

We only get a few words into the interview before Dejaegere's son curiously joins us, eager to see his father in action. Dejaegere lifts his son onto his lap, seamlessly continuing our conversation. This simple act offers a glimpse into the importance he places on family, a value that greatly influences his approach to leadership and played a part in the reason he chose to play for The Crown.

On the pitch, Dejaegere sets a precedent through his actions and takes on the mantle of vocal leadership within the team. He arrives in Charlotte having captained FC Toulouse in Ligue 1 for multiple years, and he captained his previous side of KAA Gent before that. It’s clear from our conversation that he thinks deeply about how to lead his teammates.

“Data gives you clear numbers, it helps you for sure, but I don't think it can be the key about everything because you have a human side. For example, if a guy doesn't feel good, a small word or a small coaching towards him in the game can make sure he suddenly accelerates or explodes. Some small details can, for me, make a difference on the human side.”

Much of the conversation about leadership consists of Dejaegere speaking about having "strong bonds" with teammates on the pitch, regardless of their relationships off the pitch, putting it as being “willing to give your life” for the team.

“You have to make this strong connection between everybody and that can help you to achieve results.”

Leadership isn’t the only attribute that led the Club to acquire Brecht – he also has an illustrious playing resume and a skillset on the field that the Club was in search of.

Dejaegere's European career features an impressive record of over 400 matches and four championship titles. As his career progressed, a move to Major League Soccer had always lingered in the recesses of his thoughts. For a span of seven years, he diligently followed the league's progress, and now he believes the time is ripe to embrace this new chapter in his career.

“I really wanted it [MLS] because it was like an adventure for me. The MLS is starting to have more credibility in Europe. It isn’t anymore a retirement league for me where all the stars go to. I’ve watched it already for some years and you can see that the level is going up, you have a lot of quality.”

The decision was significantly influenced by family considerations, and Charlotte's unwavering pursuit ultimately steered him toward choosing the States over other offers.

“As a player, all that matters is belief in you, and that’s what Charlotte demonstrated towards me.”

The Club's perseverance is justified by Dejaegere's skillset, which perfectly aligns with the team's requirements. As a contemporary attacking midfielder, he advances the ball well through precise passes and skilled footwork, while also possessing the ability to deliver the decisive final play.

“A good dribbler, but not like fancy tricks... I don’t make it too difficult for myself,” Dejaegere describes himself. “I can dribble well in small spaces. I consider myself agile and particularly fast in those first five meters, where it can make the difference. I can also give the last pass to score a goal.”

The Belgian’s has a more modern approach to the number 10 role, as he actively engages in both offensive and defensive aspects of the game. Dejaegere himself has been likened to a "general" in the positions he's occupied, a fitting portrayal of a player whose greatest prowess lies in elevating the performances of those surrounding him.

“I'm not really the [highest]-scoring midfielder but I think one of my biggest qualities is that I can make players better. I can make sure that other players get their level up, and I want to help them to progress.”

Individually, Dejaegere aspires to be more than a mere player passing through the team's ranks. Rather, his goal is to leave a lasting impact on the Club and on the fans, so that he is remembered not only for his contributions on the pitch, but also his character off it.

“I always have the mentality that wherever I go, the teams I play for, I want to put my mark on the history of the club.”

Throughout his career, he has consistently achieved this objective. At his inaugural club, the modest Belgian outfit KV Kortrijk, he played a pivotal role in propelling them toward playoff contention against the country's giants. Subsequently, he secured a transfer to one such giant, KAA Gent, where he clinched the Belgian Championship and Super Cup.

Building on his success at Gent, he ventured to FC Toulouse, a team then striving for Ligue 1 promotion. As anticipated, Dejaegere played a crucial role in propelling his team to promotion, and the subsequent 2022/23 season saw them secure a fairytale French Cup for the first time in their history.

Dejaegere is eager to start building his legacy with his new club immediately, with one of his first goals being securing a playoff berth.

“I want to play in the playoffs, I want to reach the playoffs. I think it can be a huge bonus for a young franchise. If we can achieve playoffs, you never know. You can be on a certain momentum where you can play your own game and with maybe a little bit less pressure, then maybe we can go above our normal level. So, if you can make playoffs then anything can happen.”

However, the primary concentration right now lies in aiding his team's progression through Leagues Cup, as they prepare to clash with Inter Miami CF in the quarterfinals. Dejaegere couldn’t join the team sooner in the tournament due to the intricacies of the visa process; he had to wait patiently for three long weeks before he could join the team. Once he finally arrived, his integration into the squad was swift, making his debut as a substitute in a dramatic Round of 32 comeback win over Houston Dynamo FC.

This has set up a marquee matchup with Inter Miami CF in the Quarterfinals. While he holds immense admiration for Miami’s Lionel Messi, he’s previously played against the Argentine when his former club faced PSG, and the prospect of facing Messi is not what he looks forward to the most.

As he emphasized early and often in our interview, what truly excites him about this fresh phase is immersing himself with his new family in the Charlotte FC locker room.

“I really feel this family thing and Charlotte... I just want to experience this new family thing, that we'll work together for the same goal and that's to win something.”