“Belgium is just bursting with talent. Why should we pick players from South America if we can find that caliber in Europe and the boys adjust more easily? It is important to attract these young players as early as possible so we don’t have to pay (Eden) Hazard prices. I first saw Eden when he was 15 but Lille had moved too quickly. Chelsea were alerted to De Bruyne and Courtois at the right moment. I watched De Bruyne for two years.”
The above quotes came from Chelsea senior scout Piet De Visser who was expressing his admiration at the quality Belgium has at its disposal. And also the quotes are intriguing in the sense that a player of the caliber of Kevin De Bruyne could be watched for close to two years without fear of other big clubs snapping him up. We’ll look further and possibly speculate over why that could have happened.
The son of a Belgian father and an English mother, De Bruyne was born in Belgium and started his footballing career at the age of 12 with Gent near his hometown. Thanks to his mother being English, Kevin can speak the language fairly well and also grew up supporting Liverpool FC. Two years into playing football, the scouts at KRC Genk spotted his potential and at 14, he was drafted into their youth ranks. By 17, young Kevin was deemed ready enough to start with the senior team at Genk.
He made his debut against Charleroi on the 9th of May 2009 in what eventually was a 0 – 3 defeat for Genk and slowly began to cement his place in the first team under manager Frank Vercautaren. In process De Bruyne scored his first goal for the club on the 7th of February 2010, a winner against Standard Liege in a 1–0 win. However his most impressive run of form for the Belgian club was yet to come.
By the 2010/2011 season, Kevin De Bruyne was an assured first eleven player for the Genk team and went on to become a thorough fan favourite after he finished the season with an impressive 5 goals and 16 assists while playing through the left side. A bout of glandular fever and a broken fibula meant that his next season wasn’t as impressive comparatively, but De Bruyne nevertheless put in some stellar performances and managed to maintain his level. Notable in particular was his hat trick against Club Brugge which cost their coach Adrie Koster his job. De Bruyne finished the season with a decent 8 goals and 6 assists.
Kevin De Bruyne signed for Chelsea on the 31st of January 2012. The rumours about Chelsea being interested in the player were floating about for close to a year before the completion of the deal and the saga reached its expected conclusion for a reported fee close to £7m. As per the deal, Kevin was loaned back to KRC Genk until the end of the season before joining up with the European Champions in the summer.
De Bruyne has just finished the pre-season tour of the US with the Blues. Chelsea have however, recruited heavily this summer with Marko Marin, Eden Hazard and Brazilian midfield lynchpin Oscar all joining in. Hazard and Oscar in particular have been recruited at very high prices.
Therefore it was very much expected that Kevin De Bruyne would be loaned out yet again by Chelsea as it doesn’t make for another Belgian to have a ‘Lukaku’ season with the Londoners. Kevin himself has been very realistic about his immediate expectations of Chelsea and a deal has now been struck with German Club Werder Bremen for a loan period through the 2012/13 season.
Whether De Bruyne has a successful career or not remains to be seen, but there is no doubting the fact that he will be admired for his shooting ability wherever he plies his trade. He likes to wrap his foot around and always seems to hit the sweet spot when he strikes the ball. Another fairly obvious quality about De Bruyne is his evident comfort at using both his feet. De Bruyne is one of those cerebral midfielders whose game is based upon work-rate, intelligent movement, positioning and link up play. He will also be an asset at set pieces.
Even in a bad game, he is unlikely to lose the ball by being wasteful and certainly is not a player prone to showboating. His understated style is perhaps one of the reasons why he didn’t come into the spotlight a la Eden Hazard before Chelsea came into the picture. He also has a keen eye for a defence splitting pass and likes to use his phenomenal passing range in order to stretch play. There is enough evidence there to suggest that De Bruyne could even play deeper in midfield (in future) if he develops a better understanding of the game.
Here is a wonderful compilation showcasing all of his strengths.
At senior level De Bruyne has largely been used as a left sided player and has done well. This has led to some confusion regarding his best position on the pitch. The player himself has said that his preferred position is through the middle. Comparisons with players like Gareth Bale seem to be wide off the mark because De Bruyne does not possess anything of the kind of pace that the Welshman has. His lack of pace means that it would be difficult for him to make it as a wide forward in top tier football. The only reason he was used in that position early in his career was because he still had a lot to learn from a tactical standpoint and a wider position for him was less likely to compromise his team.
Close to three full seasons at top flight (Even if only the Belgian League) has prepared De Bruyne for the next step. His defensive work has certainly improved over the years but can improve still. The weakest aspect of his game is more of a mental flaw, if one can suggest that. For a player of his ability, he shies away from taking initiative on occasion and tends to disappear at times. There is a feeling that he needs to be more aggressive and assertive as a player.
However, this could be remedied by playing him more through the middle where he is bound to be more involved. Also the natural temptation to take shots from distance is a habit that De Bruyne must curb over time.
Expectations From De Bruyne
De Bruyne can be expected to start games for Werder Bremen in the coming season. His success however is also likely to depend upon his position. Key attributes point towards a player who is likely to deliver his best playing through the middle. Should he take up the position vacated by Mesut Ozil and most recently by Marko Marin, this is a player who can be expected to shine for Werder Bremen. However he is versatile and experienced enough to fit into a wider attacking position whilst managing to contribute effectively.
This is a deal that works well for all three parties involved in the case. Chelsea are desperate to reduce their large squad, De Bruyne is desperate for first team football and Werder Bremen are desperate for a player who can replicate what Ozil did for them. Whether De Bruyne will be as successful as the German, remains to be seen but there is no doubting the fact that he has all the attributes to be. He is a very different type of player but is also a player who has proven to be a willing learner before.
While nothing can be predicted just yet but with Marin moving to Chelsea in the summer, this notional swap deal of sorts might just work out to be better for the Bundesliga team in the coming season.