Verbruggen: Albion are the perfect fit for me

Dutch stopper on early days at the club.

By Luke Nicoli • 11 August 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Bart Verbruggen joined us on a five-year deal from Anderlecht last month.

To be a goalkeeper in the modern game, and certainly under Roberto De Zerbi, you need to be more than just a shot-stopper.

Keepers today need to be smart with their feet; to be comfortable when the opposition are coming on to press, and to distribute with purpose and accuracy.

This is where Bart Verbruggen fits the bill perfectly. The Dutch U21 international has arrived at the Amex on the back of a memorable breakthrough campaign with Belgian big-guns Anderlecht, where he made 23 appearances and was voted the club’s Player of the Season.

He also broke into the Netherlands’ senior squad prior to appearing for his country at this summer’s Euro U21 championships, and it was his all-round game that not only brought him to the attention of his national team coaches, but also the Albion, and he signed a five-year deal earlier this summer.

“Maybe I enjoy playing with the ball more than saving the ball sometimes!” he laughed after impressing with an abundance of kick-ups ahead of his first photoshoot with the Seagulls. “I’ve always felt comfortable with the ball at my feet and to play out from the back – so it’s the perfect fit to come to Brighton.

By Paul Hazlewood
The goalkeeper in action on our Premier League media day last week.

“I’m just really happy to be here, really excited. I liked the way the team played last season with the manager and the players, and it’s a style that suits me, which is why I decided to come here.

“I’ve signed to help out the team and I think I can do that with my ability, but there has been more to my decision to come here. When you also look around at the facilities and what the team has achieved on the pitch with this coach, I think it’s an amazing club with amazing people.”

It’s certainly been a whirlwind period for the 20-year-old, who began his professional career with hometown club NAC Breda before joining Anderlecht for just £250,000 in the summer of 2021.

He was mainly a back-up goalkeeper in his first two years at Lotto Park but became the club’s first-choice shotstopper during the second half of last season, keeping ten clean sheets in 23 matches across all competitions, with a save percentage of 76.

By Bennett Dean
Bart made his Amex debut in the 1-1 draw with Rayo Vallecano.

He also starred in Europa Conference League knockout-stage wins over Ludogorets and Villarreal, but actually made his professional debut in May 2021, against Club Brugge, where he was handed his bow by Vincent Kompany – making his own early steps in management with Anderlecht.

“I learnt a lot from him and I am grateful to him for that,” said Bart of the Manchester City legend.

“I rated him very highly as a coach and he has since done a fantastic job for Burnley. I’m sure he will have even more success in the future, and it is good to be in the Premier League now, like him.

“Playing in this league has always been a dream of mine but, of course, I owe Anderlecht so much for being in this position now. I had three truly fantastic years at the club, met some wonderful people in a warm environment, and was always proud to represent the club.

By Paul Hazlewood
The goalkeeper admits that sometimes he prefers playing a good pass than making a decent save.

“Anderlecht gave me the platform to develop my game, which has allowed me to make this move to Brighton, so I owe so much to the club for making this dream come true.”

While these are early days, Bart had time to get to know his new team-mates during pre-season and on the Summer Series tour in the United States, where he appeared against Chelsea and Newcastle. But it wasn’t a completely alien environment, with fellow Netherlands U21 international Jan Paul van Hecke on hand to show him the ropes.

“I spoke to JP quite a lot about the move here while we were away with the national team, so it was good to get to know much more about the club,” Bart added. “We were in the camp for three weeks, so had plenty of downtime, and he only had good things to say about Brighton – on and off the pitch.

“That convinced me even more to come here and while these are still early days, I’ve really enjoyed my time so far. Now I can’t wait for the season to begin and to hopefully help the club achieve our ambitions.”