Belgium manager Marc Wilmots says he has the deepest respect for Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, but has reiterated that Kevin de Bruyne needs game time if he is to play in the World Cup.
A quartet of Belgium players are currently under contract at Stamford Bridge -- De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois.
However, only two are playing for the Blues this season in De Bruyne and Hazard, with only the latter a regular under Mourinho.
While Lukaku and Courtois are enjoying successful loan spells at Everton and Atletico Madrid respectively, De Bruyne has dropped down the pecking order at Chelsea. Over the past few weeks the midfielder has been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge, with Spain and Germany both being touted as possible destinations.
In an interview with Berliner Zeitung, Wilmots stressed once again that De Bruyne, as well as out-of-favour Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen, needs to reconsider his position at his club ahead of next summer’s World Cup. The Belgium boss did, however, explain that he has no problem with Mourinho for not selecting the player.
Asked whether the Portuguese profits from his work for the national team, Wilmots replied: “Mourinho does not profit from anything. He has four Belgium players, but only Eden Hazard plays. De Bruyne sits on the bench and two players have been sent out on loan. Mourinho needs success, like every coach. Like me. We are both coaches and have a mutual respect.”
Wilmots conceded that over the next six months every single one of his players needs to be playing regularly to secure a place in his World Cup squad.
“The players have also become big because of the national team,” Wilmots said. “The success there has alerted the big clubs, we should not moan about it now. We have December now. There is still January and the transfer window, then we’ll have March and April. The players know what’s at stake. It is not about the quality, but about the match practice and necessary rhythm.
“You don’t have a load of time with the national team, that’s why the selection needs to be right. But I ask: ‘Is there a problem?’ We don’t have one currently. We qualified for the World Cup perfectly.”
Such an impressive qualification campaign has led Belgium all the way into pot one for Friday’s World Cup draw.
Many have tipped the Red Devils to be dark horses at next summer’s tournament, although Wilmots does not agree.
“The favourites are Brazil and Argentina,” he said. “I also rate Chile and Colombia highly, and Spain and Germany from Europe. We have a good generation, but we are not ready yet. We want to play good football.”
Belgium will return to the World Cup next year for the first time since 2002 -- something that makes Wilmots very proud.
“We are back after 12 years and I hope that it will be a nice summer,” he said. “The people in Belgium will get together happily and celebrate. That is identification -- with the football, with the tradition and with the country.”