Despite putting out top-notch performances, Manchester City players involved in the latter stage of the Nations League were left hugely disappointed. All of Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, Aymeric Laporte and Ferran Torres came up short in their quest to win silverware with their respective national teams.
It was heartbreak for De Bruyne who delivered all the assists for Belgium in the last two games yet failed to secure even a bronze medal as the Red Devils lost back-to-back 3-2 and 2-1 to France and Italy in the semifinal and third-place match respectively.
Laporte, Rodri and Torres had their own share of the disappointment as they lost out in the final.
Torres was deployed as striker against Italy in the semifinal and delivered the goods. The 21-year-old scored twice to help the Spanish side secure a 2-1 win. But the team fell to France in the final losing by the same margin.
Regardless of the outcome though, the players can take pride in the good performances put forth. It was particularly nice to see three City players in Spain’s starting XI for the final. The team put up a good performance but was unfortunate to lose.
Beating a team that parades the likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe is always a tough task. The French side knows how to step things up despite starting slowly.
Relying on the extraordinary skills of the aforementioned players, particularly Mbappe, manager Didier Deschamps has been able to bring joy to his home land repeatedly.
For De Bruyne and Belgium though, it was more a case of inexperience than anything else. A talented squad consisting of the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, De Bruyne and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois amongst others has consistently failed when it mattered most.
It has been a case of a golden generation failing to win any trophy. Worse still, these top players are gradually leaving the scene due to ageing.
Players like Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini and Thomas Vermaelen have bowed out. For some others, like Yan Vertonghen (34), Axel Witsel (32) and Toby Alderweireld (32), next year’s World Cup in Qatar may be their last major tournament with the national team.
Meanwhile, De Bruyne and Eden Hazard are now on the wrong side of 30, meaning their days are also numbered. Their exit will bring the curtain down on a generation of top talents that have been perennial underachievers. Realistically, the tournament in Qatar may just be the last chance for this generation to win a major trophy with the national team.
Whatever happens, De Bruyne can take solace in the fact that his career at City has been trophy-laden, even though there’s still unfinished business in the Champions League. That is certainly a shared goal he will need to work together with all of Laporte, Rodri and Torres to achieve.