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What Makes Kevin De Bruyne So Versatile

Rui Vieira-Associated Press

Kevin De Bruyne has risen to the top of the soccer world thanks to his passion for the game and willingness to play whatever position he is asked to.

Kevin De Bruyne’s journey to the top had stops in all sorts of places.  

A starlet in the Belgian professional soccer system coming up through the youth ranks of historically successful clubs Gent and then Genk, De Bruyne was lured to Roman Abramovic’s Chelsea in 2012.  He never caught on at the London club, though, making only five appearances and going out on loan to Bundesliga side Werder Bremen for the 2012/2013 season before he was back in the Bundesliga on a $22 million deal with Wolfsburg in January 2014. This is where De Bruyne really came into his own, scoring 20 goals over one and a half seasons and winning footballer of the year in the German top flight for 2014/2015, becoming only the fifth foreign player to do so.  

In 2015, De Bruyne made a lucrative, nearly $75 million move to Manchester City, and those soccer fans who might not have known about his talents finally got the chance to see how he could change a match. In his first two years at City playing under Manuel Pellegrini and then Pep Guardiola, De Bruyne took a bit to adjust to the stringent conditions of the English Premier League. He wasn’t fully physically developed, but after adding some muscle he started to fit the style of league.  Image title

This season is where De Bruyne has stepped into the spotlight as the workhorse for Guardiola’s side. He has played in 28 of City’s matches, scoring seven goals and assisting 12 more in all competitions (he also leads the EPL with nine assists). 

De Bruyne’s attributes on the field are probably the most fun thing to discuss because this guy is a machine. When you design a player on career mode in the FIFA video games he’s basically what you’re looking for. Nobody can cross the ball harder and more accurately than him, as shown in this video.

He also hits cross field passes that rival those only of the GOAT, Lionel Messi, and can hit screamers that will leave you stunned for eternity.

It was hard to imagine that the boy who was being roasted on Twitter for looking like Sherman from the cult classic movie American Pie would turn into one of the most sought-after midfielders in the world, but sometimes that’s how things go. As City has appeared to turn into the world beaters this season that Pep’s Barcelona teams were, De Bruyne has undoubtedly been the focal point. The ability he has that allows him to switch from outside mid to central attacking mid to a deeper, almost double-pivot role, like he did against West Ham in December, is another trait that makes De Bruyne indispensable.  

A far inferior opponent, the Hammers sat extremely deep and tried to absorb the City attack, hoping for a counterattack opportunity. Pep’s plan to start several of his best attacking options seemed appropriate, but City fell behind early. Central defender Nicolas Otamendi eventually tied it up, and in the 83rd minute a searching ball from De Bruyne and awful defending from West Ham handed City the winner courtesy of David Silva.

Again, these are the kinds of things De Bruyne has been able to create and pull out of seemingly nowhere, even when it appears City are going to drop points. To best illustrate De Bruyne’s impact for City, here is a chart that shows the average rating out of 10 for every Manchester City player this campaign. This table highlights not only how valuable he is to them, but also the statistical categories that he really stands out. It’s noteworthy that he has played the most minutes of any outfield player, second to only goalkeeper Ederson, which shows his resilience. Particularly when he is the victim of some horrific tackles — like this one from Jason Puncheon of Crystal Palace — it’s amazing he hasn’t missed a league match yet.  

If he can keep this form up, De Bruyne, who is also top five in the league in chances created, will surely be up for numerous awards when the season wraps up. Having teammates around him who can finish has certainly helped, but De Bruyne still stands out when it comes to key passes. According to another chartKDB averages 3.1 key passes per game in the Premier League, third on the list behind two other phenomenal facilitators in Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil (3.4) and Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas (3.3).  

The last characteristic De Bruyne showcases is one that can be overlooked in soccer: The passion he has for the game. Too often it can be more about how cool a player looks after scoring or even acting like scoring isn’t a big deal. However, De Bruyne isn’t shy about arguing with his pals and demanding the best from them. 

One example is during halftime of City’s Champions League match against Napoli, which can be seen in this video below. After picking up a yellow card in the first half, De Bruyne wanted to talk with the official at the intermission but was held back by teammates David Silva and Fernandinho. He wasn’t afraid to express his frustrations with them about interrupting him, and after the match he said it was important for teammates to disagree sometimes.


This is something Guardiola noticed and was quoted in an article on the UK news site, The Independent, praising De Bruyne for. He said, “With the ball he is in different positions and can assist short and long. After, without the ball, he’s the most humble, the most shy guy. He says ‘if I have to run 100km for the team, I will do that.’ It’s not easy to find that with this type of talent. Everyone feels comfortable with him on the pitch.”  


That is critical for a Guardiola team because the style that they play requires intelligence and maturity to focus on build up play rather than directness and a selfless determination to win the ball back. This is exactly what De Bruyne has exhibited as he has come into form under Guardiola at an ideal time. Guardiola has found himself another quality player he can maneuver into any position and a player who is willing to do so. De Bruyne’s versatility also gives Guardiola a chance to mix and match down the stretch when it comes to crunch time in other tournaments such as the FA Cup or Champions League. 

This manager/player partnership, along with several other stars, has City set to win the Premier League title, holding an advantage at the top that appears insurmountable. Of course anything can happen down the stretch in the English top flight, but with KDB ruling the roost, City are flying toward the title. 

Edited by Jazmyn Brown, Kat Johansen.

What team did Kevin De Bruyne score his first UEFA Champions League goal against?
Created 1/4/18
  1. Monaco
  2. Borussia Dortmund
  3. Sevilla
  4. Barcelona

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