Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne was tipped to be the run-away winner of this year’s Player Of The Year award for the majority of this Premier League season.
In the end though Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah rightfully pipped him to the POTY award after his sensational goal scoring exploits for Jurgen Klopp’s side just became too much to ignore.
However, De Bruyne’s superb displays not just this season, but over the last few years have made you feel as if we may just be witnessing a player performing at such a consistently high level, that if he stays in England for the majority of his career he could easily be on his way to becoming an all-time Premier League great.
When watching the 26-year-old in action the thing that is so striking about him is just how efficient he is with the ball. He plays the game for the most part with one or two touches, if additional touches are not needed, the Belgium International simply doesn’t take them.
A huge amount of the mercurial midfielder’s assists and key passes actually come from either his first or second touch of the ball. It may sound simple, but it takes excellent technical ability and a certain level of footballing maturity to execute this efficient style of play.
De Bruyne does so ruthlessly, with the merits of his efficient style clearly shown by his record of a league high 15 assists this season, which is actually a few short of the 18 he achieved last term. Even when he does choose to run with the ball or take on a defender, he seems to glide across the turf elegantly without ever looking like he is pushing himself any harder than exactly the amount he needs to.
This season his manager Pep Guardiola has used the Belgian from a deep lying midfield role where he is able to use his vision and passing ability to split opposition defences with through balls to City’s attack of Ageuro, Jesus, Sterling and Sane.
It must be a joy to play as an attacker with the former Chelsea man, when you make a run forward and De Bruyne gets on the ball, you just know that nine times out of 10 the ball will be played through perfectly into your run with a minimum of fuss.
So many players feel the need to take extra touches or perform unnecessary drag backs or step overs which mean that by the time they get their head up, the opposition has regrouped or their own players have strayed offside, you just have to look at the other Manchester club’s record-signing Paul Pogba or Spurs Dele Alli to see an examples of this.
In the modern game there is so much talk of coaching, tactics and systems that sometimes such a basic concept as passing the ball into the run of your team-mate as quickly as possible can be overlooked. As the great Johan Cryuff once said…
“Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is” Johan Cryuff
De Bruyne’s manager Pep Guardiola has already gone on record to state how highly he rates his star man, and this is far from just lip service from the Man City boss as it’s important to remember that Pep tried to sign him for Bayern Munich. But the Bavarian club were not prepared to compete financially with the type of money City were offering his previous club Wolfsburg.
Playing under a world class innovative-attacking coach who clearly believes in him will surely only help De Bruyne develop even further over the coming seasons.
“He is one of [the best players I have managed]. Messi can sit alone in the table, it’s not allowed anyone else, but in the table beside, Kevin can sit there, there’s no doubt.” Pep Guardiola
If there is any criticism of De Bruyne at this time it is that he doesn’t score regularly enough, having only found the net 21 times in 97 Premier League appearances for City. Although this may be clutching at straws a little when he consider everything else he brings to his teams and the fact that he has a useful knack of popping up with goals in the biggest games.
If he does add more goals to his game however, we will be talking about a player who belongs at the table reserved for the world’s elite performers.
At international level, also you would think that given Belgium’s current golden generation, the boy from Genk will have the chance to make his mark on the next few major international tournaments, and a significant one at this summers World Cup in Russia.
He has made himself a integral part of this City side since his record-breaking move from Wolfsburg in the summer of 2015 and many quite rightly see De Bruyne as being the most important cog in the Man City machine that has romped to Premier League victory this season.
If Guardiola’s side are to kick on from their record breaking success and potentially dominate English football over the coming years, there is little doubt that a huge amount of their success will be down to KDB being at his Marvellous Efficient best.