This article forms part of our The Ones That Got Away feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern take a look back at players linked with moves in the past, and see how they would have made an impact had they signed, or been given more of an opportunity for a specific side.
Many of the players talked about in this feature never actually played for the spoken about club and were linked with potential moves. However, in the case of Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgian did actually spend time with Chelsea after initially joining in 2012, though it was almost as if he hadn’t.
So, amid his major money links with Real Madrid (as per Don Balon), now seems a good time to look back on his time at SW6.
The Belgian superstar was limited to just nine appearances in west London, being shipped out on loan to Werder Bremen (2012) during his time on the club’s books. De Bruyne’s return to Stamford Bridge in 2013 was short-lived; seldom-used by then-manager Jose Mourinho during the opening half of the 2013-14 campaign, he was sold to Wolfsburg in January 2014 for £20m.
This would be the start of De Bruyne’s career, however; the proper start, that is. Given opportunity by the Bundesliga club to showcase his talents, the former Genk playmaker showed the rest of the world exactly what he could do. 20 goals and 37 assists in just 73 games for Wolfsburg (via Transfermarkt) saw De Bruyne bought by Manchester City in 2015 for a then-club record £55m.
The rest has become history for the 28-year-old at the Etihad. 43 goals and 75 assists for the Sky Blues during the previous four seasons has seen the Belgium international lauded as one of the best footballers on the planet.
De Bruyne has already registered an astounding eight top-flight assists in just eight appearances this time out, proving what an immense talent he is and his vast importance to Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions. No one in the Chelsea side thus far has registered even half of that and, despite the attacking prowess the likes of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount have shown, perhaps that cutting edge could have helped unleash the England men even more.
In fact, no one has averaged more than 3 key passes per game (via WhoScored) – despite the good form the aforementioned players have shown in front of goal – so someone offering almost a key pass more per game would, in theory, be an excellent foil.
Chelsea completely blew it letting this magician of a football player leave for a measly £20m five years ago; he is now valued at £116m by Transfermarkt, a domestic treble-winner and was recently heralded as one of the top 100 players of the last decade by the Independent.
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