Kevin de Bruyne’s magnificent goal helped Manchester City earn a point in the first leg of the Champions League against Real Madrid – but does he receive enough credit?
Last week, Vinicius Jr gave Real the lead at the Bernabeu, but De Bruyne’s 25-yard strike leveled the semi-final going into Wednesday’s second leg at Etihad Stadium.
Since joining City from Wolfsburg in 2015, the Belgian midfielder has regularly been one of Europe’s finest.
In 237 Premier League games for City, the 31-year-old has 64 goals and 101 assists. In that period, only Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have had more assists in Europe’s top five divisions.
“I think De Bruyne still needs a defining moment at this stage,” journalist James Horncastle stated on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Euro Leagues Show.
“As dominant as City are in the Premier League, and as much as Pep Guardiola draws attention to the club, they are not a legacy club.”
“It is more difficult for a City player to build consensus among football journalists.” Guardiola is frequently associated with talent and style of play.”
De Bruyne has 14 Champions League goals for City, with 11 of them coming in knockout games, a club record.
“City needed De Bruyne to step up in the second half because he was quite neutral in the first half,” observed French journalist Julien Laurens.
“He just appeared in a crucial moment that could lead his team to another final.”
“Real Madrid was set up to keep De Bruyne from having a significant impact on the game.” Nonetheless, he remains in the game because he knows something will come to him at some point.
“You have to be mentally strong to stay in your game until that moment, and I think his celebration demonstrated that.” He raced to the City fans in the corner and plainly burst. This is what the big boys do.”
De Bruyne has twice been voted Premier League player of the season and finished third in the Ballon d’Or race in 2022.
Erling Haaland, a City teammate, was just crowned Football Writers’ Association (FWA) footballer of the year.
“I voted for De Bruyne as player of the year,” Spanish journalist Guillem Balague remarked. However, selecting him is challenging. It’s not natural to mention De Bruyne, Manchester City’s and the Premier League’s top player.
“In Spain, he is regarded as good, but not as highly as Real Madrid and Barcelona, who should compete for him.” That’s partially because we’ve had a few like De Bruyne in recent years, and partly because his manager is a piece of art at City, playing some of the best football we’ve seen, but it’s not due to one guy doing amazing things in different parts of the field.
“They all have their square of influence, and Kevin de Bruyne hasn’t been allowed to leave.” He is quite good in that area of influence, but not in the way that we say he deserves the Ballon d’Or.”
Vinicius Jr, a Real Madrid winger who scored the game’s first goal in the first leg, has emerged as one of Europe’s top players in recent seasons.
The 22-year-old Brazilian has scored 23 goals and assisted on another 21 this season.
His strike last week was a fantastic 25-yard hit from a winger with exceptional dribbling ability.
“If he starts scoring goals like that on top of everything else he does really well, he becomes an even bigger problem for all the teams that will face him,” Laurens explained.
“It was fantastic, and maybe it is the next evolution for him in terms of how he improves even more.”
Only Haaland (13 – 12 goals, one assist) has contributed more Champions League goals this season than Vinicius (12 – seven goals, five assists).
“If he continues to do what he is doing so far this season with 20-odd assists and more goals than he has ever scored in a season, it is fine,” Balague added.
“If he can intervene and influence different parts of the pitch, he will be the best in the world.”
“But he has to do it for a few full seasons.”
Vinicius had a lot of talent when he first joined Real from Flamengo in 2018, but his finishing let him down.
In his first three seasons, he scored 14 goals in all competitions, but in the two seasons since, he has scored 55 goals.
“One of the things that should never go under the radar with Vinicius is the chance that Real Madrid took on him,” Horncastle stated.
“They spent a lot of money when they signed him – more than £40 million – when no one had heard of him, and they signed him straight from Brazil, and over time they developed him, and now we’re talking about a player who is in the top three in the world.”