Belgium players pay for their own return tickets from Qatar so as not to travel with a delegation, says newspaper

The up-and-coming Belgian generation bid farewell to the World Cup in Qatar on Thursday after drawing with Croatia and being knocked out. And the trip to Belgium, which had a flight for the delegation, came back “depleted”: there were 12 athletes and the dismissed coach Roberto Martínez, but five players arrived in the country earlier, because they paid for tickets on a separate flight; Coutois and De Bruyne, protagonists of the crisis in the locker room, were also not on the official flight.

The information is from the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, which reported that Witsel, Meunier, Doku, Theate and Openda landed in Brussels on Friday night, while the delegation — which returned “depleted” after the elimination — arrived in the early hours of Saturday at Zaventem Airport (also known as Zaventem-Brussels Airport), a city close to the Belgian capital.

On the official flight, Mertens, Onana, Debast, Faes, Alderweireld, Castells, Carrasco and the now former coach Roberto Martínez traveled. The stars of the selection, also according to the Belgian newspaper, also paid for their own flights: names like goalkeeper Courtois and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.

These two are characters from recent internal crises. De Bruyne, for example, would have fallen out with defender Jan Vertonghen in the locker room, the two being restrained by striker Romelu Lukaku.

This would be just one of the relationship problems of the team commanded by Roberto Martínez. According to L’Équipe, part of the heavy atmosphere on the field is a reflection of personal disagreements between the athletes, such as Kevin De Bruyne and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who “have not spoken for years for private reasons”.

Kevin De Bruyne was pivotal to the crises inside the Belgian locker room
Kevin De Bruyne was at the center of the crises inside the Belgian locker room Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

According to the British press, De Bruyne would be one of the players responsible for the “split” in the delegation, since he would not have good relations with the other players. One of the aforementioned episodes shows an image of the team gathered in midfield before the match against the Moroccans, in which De Bruyne, unlike the others, does not hug the players at his side.

According to the newspaper, there are other relationship problems between players. Striker Michy Batshuayi would not have a good relationship with his positional competitor Romelu Lukaku. Belgian captain, midfielder Eden Hazard would not speak to striker Leandro Trossard.

On Tuesday, Hazard and Courtois went public with denying rumors of relationship problems between the athletes. But the goalkeeper and De Bruyne already experienced a traumatic episode in 2014, which involved two betrayals.

At the time, the midfielder was playing for Wolfsburg (Germany) and was dating Caroline Lijnen. But their relationship went into crisis after De Bruyne cheated on her with her best friend. Which eventually led to his involvement with Courtois, a teammate (and for a brief moment, Chelsea). The account was from Lijnen herself, in 2014, in an interview with the Belgian magazine “Story”, which covers the world of celebrities.

“In the summer of 2012, Kevin told me he hooked up with my best friend. I gave him a choice: either her or me. I was ready to give it another chance, but our relationship was never the same,” she said, then 21.

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