Michel-Ange Balikwisha (21) seems to have been launched at Antwerp. Brought in last season as a record transfer under the nose of Club Brugge, untenable in recent weeks with the basic number 1. Finally, the super talent seems to be fully utilizing its potential. A portrait.
Michelangelo, alias Mister Goal
Michel-Ange is named in part after the Italian painter and sculptor Michelangelo, as if his parents already knew they had brought an artist into the world. He grows up in a Christian Congolese family, together with his brother William, a professional football player at Standard.
“I’m the better one, because I have more insight into the game. William is technically better with his dribbling and passing,” the younger of the two said in an interview with the Red Devils’ promises.
Despite his Congolese roots, he enjoys playing for Belgium. He went through all the youth series and is now a permanent fixture in Jacky Matthijsen’s national promise team.
The young Balikwishas take their first football steps at Anderlecht. There, Mickey, as he likes to be called, was nicknamed “Mister Goal”. As a deep striker, he scored once every three/four actions.
Michel-Ange Balikwisha at the promises of the Red Devils of Jacky Mathijssen.
Everything leads back to football
But to take the real step into professional football, he left the parental nest at the age of 13. Together with his brother, he moved to the U13 of Standard, to get more playing opportunities.
That was also the reason why he chose Antwerp last summer, in that real transfer saga between Club Brugge and Antwerp. Antwerp could promise him more playing minutes. It’s clear: everything about Mickey leads back to football.
He loves the game: he has all FIFA games from 2011, constantly watches matches on TV, sometimes to the frustration of his girlfriend, Inès, with whom he lives in an apartment in Merksem.
Besides an obsession with football, the cheerful striker has a big heart for his family. He calls it his greatest ambition to make his parents and grandparents proud.
When he was finally able to score for Antwerp against Standard, he dedicated the goal to his brother who was, to put it in Mickey’s words, “held hostage” by Standard. William had been referred to Standard’s B-squad. Michel-Ange showed a T-shirt with the inscription: “Liberez mon frère.”
Balikwisha with his bold statement of support for his brother after his goal against Standard.
The transfer soap from last summer
They already knew at Standard that he can be sharp. Standard wanted to sell Balikwisha to Club Brugge, which had 7 million euros for him. But despite an agreement between the two clubs, Michel-Ange, with the help of his broker (Didier Frenay), insisted on going to Antwerp, which offered less money.
Standard initially refused, after which Balikwisha threatened with the 1978 Act, which states that a player can terminate his contract if he would repay the sum of his remaining salary to the club. Since he still had a youth contract, that came down to only 300,000 euros.
In the end, it never came to that and Antwerp and Standard signed a deal of 5 million euros, immediately the most expensive transfer ever from The Great Old.
The announcement of the transfer of Balikwisha from Standard to Antwerp.
Balls to his body
He proved once again that he had the balls to choose the sacred number 10 as a young, new player, without much accumulated merit at the highest level.
And also to announce at his performance that he wanted to score 25 goals in his first season with Antwerp. No unnecessary pressure, according to him, but triggers to perform better.
Only his season turned out differently, he stranded on 4 goals. He missed his start due to a thigh injury and shortly afterwards suffered a hip injury. Once recovered, he says he played unconsciously with the handbrake on, for fear of new injuries.
But towards the end of last season, Michel-Ange showed the flashes of the Michelangelo from Standard at times. And this season he seems to have really left, with three great goals in as many games.
It is clear: Balikwisha enjoys himself at Antwerp and that also reflects on the club. Everyone who works with him loves him. He gets the labels nice, spontaneous, bon vivant and calm.
He got along especially well with Manuel Benson, who now plays for Burnley. Benson about Balikwisha: “At Antwerp we call him Mbappé Lottin, because his style is similar to that of Mbappé.”
Secretly, Balikwisha dreams of acquiring the status of Mbappé. He has already mapped out a career path in his head: via a great club in Spain, to a big club in France, to eventually end up in the Premier League.
But first: Antwerp. And good news for the Antwerp fans: this time he didn’t put an expected number of goals on himself at the start of the season.