Van der Elst in 2010
|Date of birth||30 April 1961|
|Place of birth||Ninove, Belgium|
|Height||1.84 m (6 ft 1⁄2 in)|
|2005–2007||Club Brugge (assistant)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
During a 21-year professional career he played mainly with Club Brugge, being regarded as a legend there and briefly coaching the team in the 2000s. Also, he was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers, in March 2004.
Born in Ninove, Van der Elst started his professional career at R.W.D. Molenbeek, earning his first call-up for Belgium in 1982. Two years later, he moved to Club Brugge KV and stayed there until he finished his career in 1999, going on to total over 500 overall appearances with the side (466 in the league alone); during four seasons, he often partnered in midfield his namesake Leo – no relation.
Van der Elst won the Golden Shoe twice in his career, an accomplishment for an eminently defensive-minded player. He also appeared in four FIFA World Cups from 1986 to 1998, only scoring once for his country in nearly 90 matches, in a 2–2 friendly draw against Norway on 25 March 1998.
After retiring at the age of 38, Van der Elst was appointed as manager at K.F.C. Germinal Beerschot. After four relatively successful years he was replaced by Marc Brys, and subsequently joined K.S.C. Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen.
In 2005, Van der Elst returned to 'his' Club Brugge, as an assistant, joining former teammates – both in club and country – Jan Ceulemans, Marc Degryse, Dany Verlinden and René Verheyen. He remained with the team when Verheyen and Ceulemans were fired in 2006, but was eventually shown the door the following year, with head coach Emilio Ferrera.
|Club performance||League||Cup||League Cup||Continental||Total|
|Belgium||League||Belgian Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|1978–79||Molenbeek||Belgian Pro League||1||0|
|1984–85||Club Brugge||Belgian Pro League||33||1|