Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has told his attacking midfielder Kevin de Bruyne to guide his side to the UEFA Champions League trophy if he is to be considered equal to or even better than FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Real Madrid attacker Cristiano Ronaldo – the only two players to win the Ballon d’Or since 2009.
In a recent press conference, Pep said: “You have to be there in the latter stages. Without the latter stages you will not be nominated.
“He [De Bruyne] knows and everyone knows to be there (in contention for the Ballon d’Or) you have to win titles, and titles and titles. Especially one.”
He also put in a word about the player’s consistency and how he is constantly improving and taking his game to the next level, which in turn has been beneficial to the entire Manchester City setup.
“He is not playing like this in just one game,” Pep added. “It’s the whole season – every three days – playing that way.
“The way he’s played it’s difficult to find one (a player like it) in Europe.”
The prolific Belgian moved to the Etihad Stadium in the summer of 2015 for a then club-record fee of £55 million – which was recently eclipsed by Aymeric Laporte’s January transfer window acquisition.
Initially, it seemed that City had made a risky investment on a player that had struggled to cope with life in the Premier League. Due to his lack of physicality coupled by Jose Mourinho’s rigorous training regimes at Chelsea, de Bruyne left England to become a superstar at Wolfsburg.
Despite setting the Bundesliga alight with his scintillating play, doubts still lingered in the media and fans alike as to whether the player is tailor-made for the Premier League. However, three seasons in England and de Bruyne already seems to be a complete player destined for world class status at Manchester City.
This season in particular, the Belgian has performed beyond expectations to make the Citizens tick and has made them one of the continent’s most exciting teams to watch. He leads the assists charts in the league by setting up 14 goals in 27 appearances, and is expected to make it into the Team of the Season and possible receive a PFA Player of the Year nomination as well.
While many believe de Bruyne is a world-class talent, Guardiola does make a fair point about a Champions League winners medal. The best of the best are always the ones that lead their teams to glory in the toughest of competitions, and winning against Europe’s elite is something that every Manchester City supporter will be dreaming of.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have both been pivotal to guiding their sides to Champions League and Club World Cup glory – something which de Bruyne is still to attain. However, the Belgian has the advantage of youth over the two and is currently in his prime, unlike Messi and Ronaldo who are closer to calling it a day from the game within the next few years.
The Belgian may not be at their level as yet in regards to silverware, but when you consider him as an individual and what he brings to the table for his side, he deserves to be right in there with the world’s best.