It was only in January 2012 when Chelsea announced the permanent signing of Kevin De Bruyne from KRC Genk. The Belgian arrived on a fee in the region of 7 million, but was loaned back to Genk for the remainder of the season.
For many Chelsea supporters, De Bruyne was a signing many had never heard off, even when the Belgium had played against Chelsea in the Champion’s League (Although his performances in those games were arguably muted). For those who do follow the Belgium league, De Bruyne would be readily recognized as one of the top talents to ever come out of the country. He was an instrumental cog in Genk’s side since being promoted to the first team in 2008 and already a league winner at the young age of 21.
De Bruyne arrival at Chelsea was an inspired move. Chelsea had secured one of the best young talents from Belgium who could inject flair and creativity into the side’s then ageing midfield. However, his step up to the Chelsea first team would have to wait after Chelsea announced a loan move for the youngster to German Club Werder Breman for this season.
While many might argue that a loan move was unnecessary, it was the right one as the De Bruyne would have found it hard to break into the first team flooded with big marquee signings like Oscar and Hazard. It was also that loan move that saw him flourish for the German side Werder Breman.
Currently, De Bruyne has already chalked up 6 goals and 8 assists in 28 games for the club. This is impressive considering that the Belgian had only begun to establish himself into the first team. While statistics only tell one side of the story, it is the Belgian’s passing and creativity that really shines through on the pitch.
Ever since making a debut for the Genk side, many knew that De Bruyne was meant to be a star in central midfield. This was due to his superb passing range and vision which saw him create many chances for strikers. While he primarily played as a left winger for Genk, his play style mirrored that of David Silva and Mata, who devastated defences with pinpoint passes after cutting in from the wings. De Bruyne also had a unique flair for dribbling, pace to burn and packed a killer long shot which has seen him score sensational goals from distance (youtube him when you can).
This season, De Bruyne showed the Bundesliga all the qualities that endeared him to fans worldwide. Arguably, the most important move would definitely be the Belgian’s successful transition into a center midfield, where a majority of his goals, assist and key performances came from.
However, like other players, De Bruyne is not perfect. The Belgian falters especially in the defensive aspects of the game and is poor in finishing moves inside the box. While finishing may not be the most important trait for him to master, the defensive aspect of the game could be make or break for the Belgian especially in an ever changing football landscape. As center midfielders now are expected to perform both attacking and defensive aspects of the game well, De Bruynes weakness could be the reason why Chelsea might offload the Belgian in the next transfer window.
As many might have noticed, rumours have been flying around of an impending exit. The Belgian is reportedly being used as a makeweight to bring Bayer Leverkusen striker/Left winger André Schürrle to the club. The German has fared better in the Bundesliga this term, with 11 goals and 6 assist coming in from the left winger position.
André Schürrle comes in as a striker who is known for his high work rate, stamina and versatility in playing in an area of the attacking midfield. He has to pace to burn and an eye for goal which could help alleviate Chelsea’s striking woes. Furthermore, he can also provide back up to any of the three midfield attacking positions behind the striker which are currently dominated by Mata, Hazard, Oscar and Victor Moses. His addition will bring new dimensions to the Chelsea attack, although the unfortunate displacement of Oscar or Moses from the first team will be a likely result.
Nevertheless, it is without question that André Schürrle represents a great buy for the club, but is losing De Bruyne in the process a big mistake?
As it stands, Chelsea lacks alternatives in the center of midfield. In most games, the pair of Ramires and Mikel has been a regular feature. While Lampard deputies capably for Ramires and Mikel at times, a lack of capable substitutes especially with Romeu injured has exposed the weaknesses of the Chelsea dual midfield pivot.
For example, Mikel while strong in defence lacks the passing ability to release Chelsea’s attacking midfielders. As many would agree, Torres flourishes in a system where he runs on to through balls. Mikel’s preference to lay the ball off the Chelsea’s ball playing trio of Hazard, Mata and Oscar leaves the Spaniard with little running space. Ramires on the other hand, is full of drive and running, but also lacks the eye for a pass. This is where De Bruyne can potentially flourish.
It is obvious that a Genk version of De Bruyne playing on the left wing would hardly get a chance in this competitive Chelsea side. To play, he would have to displace Hazard, arguably Chelsea’s best player. In midfield however, the time is right for De Bruyne to make his mark. While his defensive skills have been questionable, more game time and tutelage under his peers can improve his all round play. His passing however, is something that brings tremendous leverage to Chelsea’s attacking play.
Be it short or long pass, De Bruyne can do it all. In a way, he reminds many of Xabi Alonso (albeit his passing side of the game) in his passing play style. In a duo with either Mikel or Ramires holding, Chelsea could finally have the perfect link between defence and attack. Furthermore, his knack for long shots will also take pressure of David Luiz, whose forays forward are masked with more unpredictability than effectiveness.
In conclusion, it would be a bad move for Chelsea to let De Bruyne go. Years ago, they acquired a rough gem that looked uncertain of success. However, thanks to astute loan moves, Kevin De Bruyne has shown that he can flourish in center midfield. It is up to the club whether they would afford him the opportunity to play or not.
PS: On a side note, if both André Schürrle and Kevin De Bruyne could stay, that would be the best outcome.