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Football News: Article On KRC Genk's Mark McKenzie

Article On KRC Genk's Mark McKenzie

Mark McKenzie - 25 - CB - KRC Genk

McKenzie is a player I've managed to watch a fair bit over the past few seasons, maturing in his role at CB for the Belgian Jupiler Pro League club, KRC Genk. I find there are always some solid players coming out of the Belgian league and it's a good place to blood young players and get them ready for football in a higher league. McKenzie has just completed his fourth season at the club and has gained some proper experience along the way, including experience in European cup competitions and international duties.

Defensively, McKenzie is a physical ball winner. He is brilliant at getting in defender's backs and stopping the initial balls to the centre forwards feet, thanks to his physicality, reading of the game and his acceleration to get him into the right position. His pace and acceleration are massive assets which he utilises very effectively, mopping up interceptions and managing to block shots on a regular basis. This also makes him a legitimate problem to dribble past in one-on-one situations. Furthermore, McKenzie wins 59% of his ground duels and is a more than adequate ball winner in the air. A defensively resolute player who shows all the qualities needed to compete for balls effectively and regularly.

What draws me most to McKenzie, though, is his ability on the ball. A massively composed figure, who breaks the lines with ease to progress play up the pitch and find the right pass. He has real quality in his short passing game, but it's his ability to play longer passes out from the back, which really tickles my fancy. McKenzie is capable of pinging balls down the wing to set off attacks, firing into feet with pace, switching play with diagonals or lofting passes to feet. His progressive passing numbers see him complete 6.26 passes per 90, which has him above the likes of Manuel Akanji, who's currently the English Premier League (EPL)'s highest progressive passing centre back, at 5.53 passes per 90.

Whilst the glaringly obvious discrepancies in standards between the leagues apply, rest assured, 6.26 progressive passes per 90 is an insanely good statistic. To compound that stat, McKenzie completes 81% of his passes into the oppositions half, meaning he's capable of initiating transitions of play with one pass. A great attribute for Leeds, as this season we've tended to take too long to shift between our phases of play.

A partnership with Pascal Struijk - a brilliant presser, with quality ball-playing ability himself - is honestly something which I find incredibly appealing, and would see us have the best centre back pairing in the league by some margin.

He's certainly grown as a player since I've been watching him. His concentration levels have improved and it's paid dividends for his one-on-ones, whilst allowing him to be less reactive defensively, as previously he had lapses and relied a little heavily on his pace to recover situations. Where McKenzie could add to his game would be his attacking prowess from set pieces. He is a good reader of the game and ball flight paths, so if we decide to finally learn how to become better at set pieces by employing a specialist coach, there is potential there for him to improve in that area.

There is interest from West Ham United and he could likely slot right in comfortably at EPL level right now, but I would love to see him come to the Championship and progress his career that way. Allowing him to excel at this level before rubbing shoulders with the big boys.

His contract runs until 2025 and transfermarkt has him valued at just over £5 million. With 12 months left, a reasonable offer would be somewhere in the region of £7m should McKenzie not sign a new deal. Genk's Director of Football, Dmitri de Conde, has stated he doesn't want their stars to enter the final 12 months of their contracts, so expect something imminent, whether it be a sale or a new contract.

Dmitri de Conde: "They [McKenzie and his agents] are holding off on that [signing new deals]. We still have time, but if they continue, a solution will have to be found in the summer. We will not let anyone enter their final year".

Written by Dillinger June 23 2024 11:44:20


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