The case for De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne is on the three-man shortlist for the 2019/20 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award. analyses why he is in the running alongside Robert Lewandowski and Manuel Neuer.

Positional award nominees

Simon Hart, Man. City reporter

His fellow professionals’ choice as Player of the Year in England in 2019/20, De Bruyne is creator-in-chief for a Manchester City side who finished as the UEFA Champions League’s third-highest scorers last term. Whether he is carrying the ball upfield on a driving run, pinging forward a perfect pass, or swinging over one of his trademark crosses, he performs with a gracefulness that makes him a joy to watch.

De Bruyne was voted 2019/20 PFA Players' Player of the year

De Bruyne was voted 2019/20 PFA Players’ Player of the yearManchester City FC via Getty Ima

In last season’s Premier League he delivered a record-equalling 20 assists; in the Champions League’s last 16 he scored one and set up another as City won at Real Madrid – this in a false nine role – and then did as much as anyone to keep the dream alive against Lyon via a goal struck with characteristic nerveless precision.

2019/20 in numbers

Achievements: English League Cup winner, Premier League runner-up, PFA Players’ Player of the Year

UEFA Champions League
Appearances: 7
Goals: 2
Assists: 2

Domestic league
Appearances: 35
Goals: 13
Assists: 20

Top three moments

Highlights: De Bruyne stars in Real Madrid win

Highlights: De Bruyne stars in Real Madrid win

1. Exploiting the freedom of the false nine role, De Bruyne gave a captain’s performance in the Champions League round of 16 first leg against Real Madrid. Surrounded by white shirts, his clever cross fell perfectly for Jesus to level, before he stroked in the winner from the penalty spot.

2. Matching Thierry Henry’s 2002/03 Premier League record; against Norwich in July 2020, the Belgian set up Raheem Sterling to register his 20th assist of the season.

3. With two expert finishes and a pinpoint delivery before half-time, De Bruyne was unlucky not to clinch a hat-trick as his soaring strike was tipped onto the post in a Premier League masterclass against Arsenal.

What they say

“He is a masterclass player, one of the best players I have ever trained in my life.”
Josep Guardiola, Manchester City coach

2019/20 UEFA Men's Player of the Year award nominees

2019/20 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award nominees

“I’ve never worked with a playmaker that can work at a faster pace than the game. Any playmaker we’re used to seeing is a player that slows the tempo down and gets two seconds to think, two seconds to find that pass. [De Bruyne] sees the pass even before any spectators see it.”
Roberto Martínez, Belgium coach

”In the Belgium national team we used to joke about the assists record and I always used to say, ‘You were not far this year,’ and he would always say, ‘I’ll get you one day’.”
Theirry Henry, former Belgium assistant coach

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