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Whatever Happened to Manchester City’s £60m Reject?

A Look at the Ginger Pele Who Supposedly Wasn’t Good Enough for the Premier League

Soccer - Manchester City New Signing Kevin De Bruyne
The flop arrives. Kevin de Bruyne displays his new shirt at Manchester City
Photo by Sharon Latham/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

Absolutely bonkers! The world is going mad! I just don’t see £50m for this player.

That was just some of the reaction when Manchester City’s deal with Wolfsburg for midfielder Kevin de Bruyne was agreed. The media labelled him as a £60m reject following his ill-fated spell at Chelsea ended with an £18m transfer to Wolfsburg after a season-long loan spell at Werder Bremen.

City were due to play Watford in August 2015 when the subject of the blues signing the 24-year-old midfielder was discussed on Sky’ Soccer Saturday. Paul Merson and Phil Thompson in particular were savage in their assessment of the Belgian, with that football seer Merson claiming he thought the fee being paid by City, around the £55m mark, was in Italian Lira.

And how they were made to eat their words. It was the worst prediction since ‘journalist’ Oliver Holt described Sergio Aguero’s move to City as ‘high-profile- yet thought Charlie Adam’s move to Liverpool would eclipse it. And Sky pundit Charlie Nicholas labelled Aguero as the worst buy and not value for money.

Aguero became City’s all-time top goalscorer, holds the honour of being the most successful non-English striker in the Premier League and is the fourth most lethal striker the Premier League has seen behind Alan Shearer, Andy Cole and Wayne Rooney. Adam left for Stoke two years later.

Yet, history, and we know how these people love to bang on about history, was not taken into account when the media laid into City’s plans to bring de Bruyne back to England. After beating Watford 2-0, the Belgian signed for Manuel Pellegrini’s side the following day. And, while the pundits were getting ready to slate the star for the next eight months, City fans would be treated to something quite out of this world.

His first season brought seven goals and nine assists as City scraped into the Champions League ahead of United on goal difference. The following season saw Pep Guardiola arrive and the blues reached the FA Cup semi-final and finished third in the Premier League. De Bruyne helped himself to six Premier League goals, but doubled his assist count to 18.

City won the 2017/18 Premier League title at a canter, with de Bruyne claiming 8 goals and 16 assists and the pundits were now starting to take notice. the Belgian was performing at such a high level that a general feeling of gloom was felt amongst the faithful when he suffered injury spells during the 18/19 season, and even the pundits thought the blues would miss the midfield genius.

City won the title in any case and, while they lost their crown a season later during the pandemic months, de Bruyne still racked up 13 goals and 20 assists. Two more titles followed with de Bruyne at the very heart of the City team, notching 15 goals last season.

And despite being 31 going into this season, the Belgian shows no signs of slowing. From four matches. But drilling down into the numbers shows how de Bruyne is still performing at a higher level than other midfielders.

Four players currently have three assists in the Premier League, yet de Bruyne has created the most chances (11), attempted the most passes (207) and completed the highest number of passes (164), with a pass accuracy rate of 79%.

De Bruyne hasn’t quite clicked with Erling Haaland as yet, although the two are showing signs of an understanding, and once they do, we can expect de Bruyne figures to rocket.

In seven years, de Bruyne has won four league titles, one FA Cup, five League Cups, one Community Shield, PFA team of the year (four times). He has numerous accolades including UEFA team of the year (three times), Premier League playmaker of the season (twice), FIFA World Cup dream team (2018), Premier League goal of the month (twice), Premier League player of the season (twice) and the UEFA Champions League midfielder of the season (19/20). This is just a selection of the many accolades he has achieved.

Not bad for a £60m reject!