In the space of three years, Kevin de Bruyne swapped London for Manchester, via Germany. Brought to Chelsea under André Villas-Boas, it was Jose Mourinho who deemed him not good enough to play in the Premier League after a loan spell at Werder Bremen which was soon followed by a permanent move to Wolfsburg.
Not for the first time the Portuguese manager has been proved wrong (Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata) as in 2015, Manchester City shelled out £55 million for De Bruyne, which has seen him go from strength to strength to make him one of the world’s most complete midfielders. Oh how Mourinho could do with him at their neighbours, Manchester United.
But why has De Bruyne made an instant impact in a Manchester City in comparison to summer signing Paul Pogba, who returned to Manchester United in a record breaking deal.
Signing for Chelsea at the tender age of 20, De Bruyne featured just nine games for the London club in his career. But with a combined 107 games in Germany for Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg, the dynamic midfielder scored 30 and assisted 53.
Establishing his game at Wolfsburg under the tutelage of Dieter Hecking, De Bruyne made a name for himself which saw equal the Bundesliga record for the most assists in one season, 20 – which was previous held by Zvjezdan Misimovic in 2009.
Considering Manchester United already had Pogba on their books – albeit as a 16-year-old – to pay so much to bring him back is quite staggering. Granted, he wanted first team football and to be paid a respected wage – of which he wasn’t – which saw him move on to Juventus, whom he helped to four Serie A titles in a row.
Under the watchful eye of Antonio Conte, Pogba slowly improved in a midfield which included Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal. In the end, the now France international knew that he had to improve on his discipline and work his way up to the top – something that he did so under new coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Once Pirlo and Vidal left the club, it was Pogba’s role be the driving force of Juventus – so much so that he was given the famous number 10 jersey, once donned by Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini.
The £89m that Ed Woodward & Co. forked out to bring Pogba back to Old Trafford, is almost double that Manchester City paid to bring in Wolfsburg midfielder De Bruyne to the Etihad. Instead, should the Red Devils should have secured a deal to sign De Bruyne from Wolfsburg when the opportunity arose?
During his time at Chelsea, Mourinho once labelled De Bruyne as “an upset kid” after he moaned about not getting a move away from the London club.
Despite his earlier (than planned) exit from Chelsea under Mourinho, the Belgium international has no hard feelings towards his old manager. Although, he did tell FourFourTwo that he needed to move on if he was to progress his career, as he did.
“I’ve no idea and I don’t care [why I never won over Mourinho]. I waited four months, then I said to myself that wanted to play football every week,” he told FourFourTwo.
“I couldn’t get the game time I wanted, so leaving was the obvious choice. I wanted to start a new chapter – not be loaned out and come back to the exact same situation. It was a really smart move on my part. But of all the choices I have made in my career, I don’t regret one of them – even going to Chelsea. It didn’t work out. I wanted to play football; I didn’t; so I left.”
There’s clearly no bitterness between the two, but if De Bruyne hadn’t departed Chelsea, would he be half the player he is today? Many suggest that the Belgian wouldn’t even be named in the same bracket as Pogba.
But, just who got the better deal? Both are modern day examples of what clubs want in a complete midfielder; athletic, technical, intelligent and decisive. Both can score goals and assist others, but why doesn’t De Bruyne get the praise he duly deserves?
To put into context the transfer fees involved, the £55m that Manchester City forked out on De Bruyne was three times that of which Chelsea sold him to Wolfsburg for in January 2014 – his performances for Pep Guardiola this season makes the fee paid for him make sense, unlike Pogba’s – which has seen him slowly start to gel with his new teammates at Old Trafford.
At Wolfsburg, he became such a key ingredient that the team was built around him. He was in Germany, where he was wanted and where he had a team built round him. Now, at Manchester City, De Bruyne is starting to excel, whilst the rivalry with Pogba will certainly be one to keep an eye on.
Now that both De Bruyne and Pogba are back plying their trade in the Premier League, they’re always going to be comparisons drawn. Manchester United vs Manchester City, Jose Mourinho vs Pep Guardiola, Paul Pogba vs Kevin de Bruyne.
The debate over who got the better deal will be a never ending one, but at the minute, it’s definitely the £55m that Manchester City paid for De Bruyne.
About the author – Daniel Pinder
Daniel is a Yorkshire based sports journalist that specialises in German football. Having fallen in love with the country during the 2006 World Cup thanks to the trio of Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose and Bastian Schweinsteiger, he has visited the country six times in the past two seasons to watch Cologne. Daniel has also had work published on FourFourTwo, Deutsche Welle, Goal and Gazetta Worlds, whilst he aims to bring news and analysis from Germany to an English audience.