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Arsenal (A) Sun 1 Mar 2015, 14:05, Barclays Premier League

by Adam Clark @efc_adamclark

Belgium manager Marc Wilmots has praised Everton for nurturing Marouane Fellaini into one of his nation's most important players - admitting he was delighted when Kevin Mirallas linked up with his compatriot by joining the Blues.

In an exclusive interview with, Wilmots said he felt Goodison Park had proved the ideal setting for Fellaini to develop his talent following a Club record £15million move from Standard Liege in September 2008.

The midfielder, Everton's top scorer with 12 goals this season and a player hoping to help Belgium record back-to-back wins over Macedonia this week, was joined on Merseyside by Mirallas when the winger signed from Olympiakos last August.

A succession of injuries hampered Mirallas' progress at first, though in flashes he has shown the potential to become another key player for both club and country.

And in reflecting on Fellaini's time at Everton, Wilmots said: "Fellaini has improved as a goalscorer and he plays in a more attacking position now.

"Every big championship with its packed stadiums is good for the development of our players. Whether it is England, Germany, Italy... it helps the players [to be at the] top level and they bring this experience to the national team.

Marc Wilmots and Marouane Fellaini

"When I heard Kevin would be moving to Everton I thought it was a good transfer and I think he is enjoying himself because there is also Marouane there as his fellow countryman.

"He was also good at Olympiakos where he was top goalscorer and he is very young and keeps on growing and improving. The Premier League level is very interesting to him.

"He is fast, he can dribble, he can score and he lets other players score too. He can play different styles and formations and it doesn't affect his level. He will keep improving."

As for Wilmots, he may just have the most unenviable job in international football.

Entrusted with what is viewed as a golden generation of Belgian talents, the 44-year-old is expected, at the very least, to guide his team to Brazil 2014.

Fail and the flak will almost certainly fall on him; succeed and it will be the likes of Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Fellaini and Mirallas who take the credit.

The man in the hotseat, however, insists he is happy to shoulder the pressure.

"It [the weight of expectation] is not too much to be honest, although it’s very normal people want us to qualify since it’s more than 10 years ago since Belgium played a big tournament," he added.

"We can only talk about a golden generation once these players have made some good results and won some trophies."

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