“I don’t want to be the star, I just want to play well”
In an era where flashy is often equated with brilliance comes the Kid, or the ginger-haired Pele as he is called in his homeland. He is a man primed to become the face of a Belgian golden generation and of a Pep Guardiola led Manchester City. His secret? Keeping it simple.
Born on 28 June 1991 in Drongen, Belgium to an English mother and a Belgian father, Kevin De Bruyne has since then moved up the ranks to become possibly the most influential player on both his national and club teams. He’s widely regarded to be a better player for his national team than Eden Hazard, the star of his former club Chelsea who must regret thinking he was surplus to requirements by the end of 2013. Wax lyrical on the Kid? Yes.
It’s apt that he now succeeds a fading magician; the one they call Merlin. The pairing is one of master ceding to an emerging, newer arrival who now seeks to learn whatever he can while stamping his own brand of wizardry on the City. The methods differ but the effect is just as devastating at its best. Together, David Silva and De Bruyne form a midfield partnership capable of snuffing the life from most clubs in Europe. But we know the Spanish magician’s tricks. We’ve been exposed to them for years. His main partner in sorcery has been ‘Kum Kum’ Aguero, the Argentine striker who crafted his own incantations; most effective when their synergy reached a crescendo.
Now, the Spaniard seems more relaxed, seemingly allowing the Belgian to claim the spotlight he would rather avoid. Keep it Simple is the title of that man’s autobiography and it describes the man himself, it describes his style of playing football. Having bought his first car in 2015, a Mercedes, in an age when many flaunt cars as soon as they are able to afford such, De Bruyne preferred to rely on club vehicles. It’s a way of living that is evident in how the man wields his magic and in how he manages to do so without the hype surrounding many who are not his equals on a football pitch.
“I’m not going to be much fun for you – I don’t say much.” – a ‘shy guy’ Kid told the English press on his return to the country in August of 2015.
He’s fun for us, though. Don’t confuse simple with simplistic. There is much style to the Kid; but he never substitutes substance for said style. His ability to glide past opponents and play a killer low cross or through ball is reminiscent of Silva, yet his style remains his own. Indeed, the Spaniard and the Belgian are both quiet operators, preferring to be the unassuming touch of class behind the flash of a mega-team in so many ways. We don’t see them inviting controversy, grabbing headlines for what they said in a press conference, or being hyped even after dominating displays. The blue half of the City of Manchester thanks then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho immensely for labelling the Kid a crybaby back then.
There are no tears, not now.
Today, that episode is firmly behind him. Whatever may have transpired, if he was poor in training., felt entitled, was unfairly treated or if it was a bit of all, he is the new orchestrator of the symphony at Man City. As the Spaniard gradually decreases his touches on the ball, the Belgian increases his grip on City’s attack. Methods vary, one a metronomic operator who controls tempo with a magical left foot, the other a true all rounder, very good at everything and weak in nothing offensively. Neither are the best defensively but that is not their purpose, not where the Manchester outfit is sky blue.
The Kid is good with both feet, a good passer, a prolific creator, no slouch from set pieces able to use guile to outwit walls and goalkeepers, able to use what pace he has to sometimes devastating effect in bursts and able to exert his influence on a football match with a moment of class even after not being distinguishable from the rest in minutes before. For Manchester City, a team packed with talent from back to front and from player to manager, the Kid promises to be the x-factor in years to come. They need him fit and up to the task.
Merlin is still wielding his wand, up to his old tricks; but a new wizard has emerged, a wizard not fussed with histrionics and yet equally skilled at deception.
Two unassuming men…
Two still vitally crucial men to whatever Man City aspire to be….
Two men allergic to headlines and the spotlight…
One slowly fades into the background where he performs – but muted – and from the shadows emerges the ginger-haired Kid.