Manchester City have undergone one of the most compelling transformations in footballing history in the decade since Sheikh Mansour purchased the club, and plenty of players have played huge individual roles in facilitating the rapid transition from relegation-threatened underdogs to European heavyweights.
The likes of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure have all been instrumental in City’s transition – Vincent Kompany was a pre-Mansour purchase – but in recent years it’s fair to say Kevin de Bruyne has been the most game-changing acquisition.
Chelsea have made something of an unwanted habit of selling talented stars before they reach their full potential, and Jose Mourinho’s inability to connect with players on an individual level cost the Blues a world class player in De Bruyne who could have thrived at Stamford Bridge.
De Bruyne enjoyed a glowing 2012/13 campaign with Wolfsburg after being allowed to join the Bundesliga outfit on a season-long loan, with a return of 10 goals and 9 assists convincing Mourinho to give him a chance at Stamford Bridge the following season.
But he was effectively exiled after nothing more than a mere sniff of the first-team and Wolfsburg swooped in to offer him the opportunity of a permanent switch in January 2014 – an offer which he gladly accepted.
The Belgium playmaker has not looked back ever since. He didn’t quite discover his electric form straight away but the 2014/15 season provided Mourinho with the proof that he had made the unforgivable mistake of failing to recognise the sheer enormity of his talent.
At the end of his first full campaign as a contracted Wolfsburg player, De Bruyne boasted a simply earth-shattering return of 16 goals and 28 assists from 51 appearances for the club.
That De Bryune was playing for Wolfsburg and not Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund added to the remarkable nature of his statistics and, unlike Mourinho, Man City were convinced that he was indeed cut out for the Premier League.
Manuel Pellegrini welcomed De Bruyne to his star-studded squad for what represented a club-record £55 million at the time, and since that moment he has gone from strength to strength.
In the 143 appearances he has made in City blue, De Bryune has scored 35 goals and provided 57 assists whilst providing the club with an unstoppable engine room in midfield.
What the statistics cannot reveal is De Bruyne’s all-round quality; if Guardiola put him at left-back he would mark his opposite number out of the game and torment him moving forward; he is the complete player; a legend in the making, if not already.
Mourinho’s mistake provided City with a player who is instrumental to their success, and the manner in which Guardiola has struggled to fill the creative void he has left during his recent absence through injury serves to illuminate his paramount importance.
They say it takes one to know one, but Sheikh Mansour, Pep Guardiola, Txiki Begiristain and everybody associated with the club are forever indebted to ‘the special one’ for failing to recognise a special player when he was staring him in the face.
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