Kevin de Bruyne, the Belgian Maestro, has been at the top of his game for going on a decade. He is the on-field conductor of his club, Manchester City, and a major reason why they have had such a spectacular rise to prominence during Pep Guardiola’s reign in the Premier League. Similarly, the midfielder, together with keeper Thibault Courtois, is one of the two indispensable players on Belgium’s National Team, if coach Roberto Martinez’s starting roster of the past eight years is any indication.
De Bruyne can dribble, shoot, and pass, better than most, but two things really set him apart. First, is his ratio of pass receptions to immediate and spectacular pass completions that stands out. The quality of both of those activities is outstanding. He is constantly able to find space for himself to receive a pass and then, immediately upon that reception, he knows where to put the ball for the greatest benefit to his team and is able to deliver that pass.
Second, de Bruyne has the killer instinct, the ability to know just when that moment has arrived when a game will be put to bed if he can just deliver the pass, shot, or block that his team requires. What makes this second skill stand out is that he will change his rhythm and role to achieve that one momentary objective. He will be roaming central midfield directing traffic and suddenly become the attacking winger or central striker, or switch sides of the pitch simply to receive the ball in order to change the front of attack back to where he had been. It is as if he is sensing the game’s undercurrents and reacting to them instead of what is currently transpiring in front of him.
But poor de Bruyne—who is simply too consistent, too good, day in and day out, that he performs at such a level that few others can compare—has rarely had the type of spectacular season (such as Messi, Ronaldo, Modric, or Lewandowski) which puts him fully head and shoulders apart from all others that year. If he had, he would have won a FIFA Best and a Ballon d’Or by now—but consistent quality is not rewarded by awards meant to capture a single season or year of performance. Perhaps one day our sport will have a “Best Player of the Decade” award or the Second-Best Player of the Year award, but even then, someone winning 4-5 of those singular-year trophies might pip Kevin to those trophies.
Now comes the World Cup, and as Luka Modric knows, if your club team wins the Champions League and/or your domestic league trophy AND you have a spectacular tournament at the quadrennial show, you have an inside track on that singular trophy because of the cup’s global exposure. De Bruyne does not have to win the World Cup with Belgium to be considered a great player, everyone already knows how good he is, it is simply that it would be nice to acknowledge the consistent quality he brings to the pitch each and every time he suits up. So here is hoping he has a good tournament in Qatar.
Photo: Kevin de Bruyne, Shutterstock Photo ID: 2054852657, by ph.FAB
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