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Kevin De Bruyne – “The Ginger Pele”

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City, Premier League
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Meet Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, the man capable of changing the tide of a game with a simple flick of a pass.

Name:Kevin De Bruyne
Nickname:The Ginger Pele, The Prince, Tumble Dryer
Born:June 28, 1991
Birthplace:Drongen, Ghent, Belgium
Height:1.81 m (5 ft 11 in)
Clubs:Genk, Chelsea, Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg, Manchester City
National team:Belgium
Titles:12 (All Club)

Once dubbed ‘the modern Cruyff’, Kevin De Bruyne’s remarkable rise in football continues to captivate everyone. He somehow raises his game each season for both Manchester City and Belgium.

What makes the Belgian special, though, is how he regularly makes football seem so simple. It’s one of the hardest things to do, yet it’s almost second-nature to him. There is nobody like him in football today.

Despite being a lethal long-range shooter, De Bruyne’s greatest traits are his vision and passing ability. His eye for finding pockets of space is second to none, with just one pass capable of changing the tide of a game. It’s worked wonders in Europe’s hardest league – the Premier League.

Described as ‘super chilled’ in his own words, De Bruyne is perhaps one of the quietest footballers around. He does his talking on the pitch instead, but occasionally unleashes the stubborn and competitive beast inside him. Nobody wants to mess with this guy.

The last word

Kevin De Bruyne’s story began in the Belgian city district of Ghent called Drongen on June 28, 1991. He is one of two children to Herwig and Anna De Bruyne.

While growing up, Kevin supported Liverpool and constantly slept in the club’s bed linen. He had all the gear from jerseys to tracksuits, and he admired Michael Owen. The big dream was to one day don the famous Red shirt in Anfield.

Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho Gaucho were his childhood role models.

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The youngster’s interest in English football came naturally because of his family background. His mother, born in Burundi, grew up in London because of her father’s work in the oil industry. The latter also supported the Reds.

After developing a passion for playing football, De Bruyne joined hometown club KVV Drongen in 1997. He soon moved to Gent to continue his development, where his performances won many plaudits. Therefore, Genk signed the promising young player to their academy.

Moving to the other side of Belgium, however, meant a 14-year-old De Bruyne had to leave home. It wasn’t an ideal scenario, especially for a boy with a withdrawn personality. His foster family rejecting him after two years was a crushing blow.

“People said that I would not make it because of my poor character. I told myself at that point: ‘Let’s see who has the last word,'” said De Bruyne.

True to his word, Kevin proved his doubters wrong by graduating to the Genk first-team in 2008. He quickly established himself in the line-up and helped them to a league title in 2010/11. Chelsea signed him a year later for €8m as a long-term successor to Frank Lampard.

The big break goes bust

Signing for Premier League giants Chelsea was the next step Kevin De Bruyne’s career trajectory. Aware they would limit his game time, however, the 20-year-old joined Werder Bremen on loan. This way his development would be unhindered by playing in Germany.

Adapting to Bundesliga football, meanwhile, proved to be no problem. The midfielder clocked an impressive 10 goals and nine assists in 33 league games for Bremen. It won him the Young Player of the Year award and a determination to succeed in London the following season.

Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea
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Personal issues and a lack of regular opportunities, though, meant the Chelsea dream ended miserably. What should have been his big break in football ended in bitter disappointment. He made just nine appearances in all competitions, with five of them as a starter.

Blues coach Jose Mourinho was aware of De Bruyne’s potential but opted to stick with his proven stars.

“We had a bit of a conversation about me going back out on loan,” revealed Kevin.

“I said, ‘I feel like the club doesn’t really want me here. I want to play football. I’d rather you sell me.’

“I think Jose was a bit disappointed, but to be fair to him, I think he also understood that I needed to play. So the club ended up selling me, and there was no big problem at all.”

A €22m transfer to Wolfsburg in January 2013 followed, which granted De Bruyne regular opportunities again.

A reborn De Bruyne shines again

After the Chelsea dream blew up in smoke, Kevin De Bruyne resurrected his career back in the Bundesliga. He became a household name in no time through some sublime displays in record-breaking fashion.

The Stamford Bridge rejection only fueled De Bruyne on to greater heights. And Wolfsburg proved to be the perfect stepping stone for his career. Coach Dieter Hecking soon made the midfielder feel special, which he returned with countless goals and assists.

Before long, Kevin became Europe’s biggest young prospect upon tearing German defences to shreds. In his one full season in 2014/15, he set a record of 21 assists in 34 Bundesliga games.

Add his 10 goals scored to the mix, then he contributed 31, or 43% to be precise, of Wolfsburg’s 72 goals. The outcome? A second-place finish behind Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich team. A DFB-Pokal title capped off an incredible campaign at the Volkswagen Arena.

Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Bayern Munich all naturally began a bidding war for De Bruyne. Moved by City’s interest and ambition, however, he completed a €76m Premier League return in 2015.

History in Manchester

Brimming with confidence following his Bundesliga success, the Belgian returned to England ready to crush doubters. A brilliant start for Manchester City soon erased the Chelsea flop image from everyone’s minds. By four league games, he had contributed three goals and assists.

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City v Newcastle United - Premier League
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EFL Cup glory and the winner against PSG in the Champions League quarter-finals proved Kevin De Bruyne’s class.

Although Pep Guardiola’s appointment as manager in 2016 was the true turning point. It didn’t seem that way in the beginning, with De Bruyne playing in several positions. He did though chip in an impressive 23 assists despite the club going 2016/17 trophyless.

But the acquisitions of Danilo, Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker and Aymeric Laporte for the following campaign changed everything.

De Bruyne adopted a more traditional position in the centre of Guardiola’s midfield. It wasn’t the attacking role he enjoyed in Wolfsburg, but the change was effective. He has since added 35 assists in 82 Premier League games since 2017.

“Messi is on a table on his own. No-one else is allowed. But the table beside, Kevin can sit there,” said Pep.

Manchester City v Watford - FA Cup Final
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Two Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one Community Shield and a hat-trick of EFL cups have arrived in Manchester. Never has the club tasted such success, with only the Champions League left to conquer. Yet everyone remains hungry for more in this historic period.

Now 28, De Bruyne is at the peak of his abilities and arguably Manchester City’s most important player. If he can continue the strong performances, European glory is possible for both club and country in 2020.