During the summer, Burnley and Steven Defour mutually agreed to terminate the latter’s contract citing personal reasons, and the midfielder then joined Antwerp on a one-year deal.
In his final 18 months with the Clarets, the 31-year-old’s playing time was restricted due to injuries. The Belgian’s last appearance for Sean Dyche’s side came in their FA Cup defeat to Manchester City in January.
The former Belgium international was expected to return to action during preseason, but failed to regain full fitness on time.
This led to the player doubt himself, and Burnley were also looking to end their association with him. Defour admitted it wasn’t his plan to return to his homeland at the beginning of the window.
“I thought that calf injury would put me aside for about five months. That way I could experience the preseason at Burnley,” he told podcast MIDMID, as relayed by Het Laatste Nieuws.
“However, that injury continued to drag on. Whether I could still cope with the physical level of the English competition was eventually questioned aloud by myself and by the club.
“At the end of the transfer period, Burnley then asked me whether a solution could be found.”
“At the beginning of the transfer period, I actually didn’t like a return to Belgium, but because that injury continued to haunt me, I started to think: what can I do to get my career back on track? When it came to an end, Antwerp turned out to be the best solution.”
Defour’s close ties with Antwerp sporting director Luciano D’Onofrio were helpful for him to quickly seal a move to the Jupiler Pro League side in the final days of the window.
“All through my career I have been in regular contact with Luciano. For example, we talk about my family, my career, and at the beginning of the summer he once asked my opinion about ‘the Antwerp project’,” Defour explained.
“I made it clear that Burnley didn’t want to let me go, so that wasn’t an option. So, there was nothing concrete, but at the end of the transfer period they really pushed me for the first time. Then it went very quickly. We know each other well, there was not a long talk.
“There were other options throughout the summer, but only if I could leave for free. Burnley did not allow that at the time, but in the end, I’m grateful that they let me leave for Antwerp as a free agent.
“In this ambitious project I get the ideal opportunity to put my career back on the map.”