Wolfsburg’s De Bruyne a very hot commodity


Wolfburg's Kevin De Bruyne. (Martin Meissner/AP)

NAME: Kevin De Bruyne
BORN: June 28, 1991
POSITION: Midfielder
PRO CLUB: VFL Wolfsburg (Bundesliga)…for now?

While Chelsea is usually the kind of club that draws in great players, Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne might just be the classic “one that got away.” De Bruyne made just nine appearances for Chelsea in his loan-heavy time at the club, before being deemed surplus to requirements and sold to then-middling Bundesliga side Wolfsburg in the January 2014 transfer window. Since then he’s proved his worth, scoring 13 goals and notching a stunning 25 assists in 50 games for the German club. With De Bruyne driving the midfield, Wolfsburg won the German Cup—their first ever Cup title—and finished runners up in the Bundesliga in 2014-15. Just this month Die Wölfe bested Bayern Munich for the German Supercup to kick off the 2015-16 season.

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He’s just about the best playmaking midfielder in Europe these days. At 24 he’s beginning to hit his prime, but his white-hot form in the Bundesliga last season has earned him the status as one of the most sought-after commodities in the game.

De Bruyne cut his teeth with a top-flight football club in his native Belgium when Racing Genk picked him up for their youth team. He’d go on to play over 80 games for Genk, including a pair of 2011-12 Champions League matches against English heavyweights Chelsea. His performances there prompted the London giants to sign the then-20 year old, one of three Belgians signed during Andre Villas Boas’ tenure at the helm of the London club.

Opportunities at Stamford Bridge were limited and De Bruyne was loaned out first back to Genk, then to Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. In 2014, unsettled in London—reportedly the high-pressure atmosphere of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea didn’t square well with De Bruyne’s personality—the Belgian signed a five-year deal at Wolfsburg.

Having made his debut for the Belgian Red Devils as a 19 year old, De Bruyne has since amassed over 30 caps for his country, scoring eight goals. His four goals made him Belgium’s top scorer in 2014 World Cup qualifying, but perhaps his most memorable came in the tournament itself, where De Bruyne opened the scoring in extra time of an eventual Round of 16 win over the USA.

January 30, 2015 is a day Kevin De Bruyne is unlikely to forget. Not only because his second-place Wolfsburg side bested the mighty—and table-topping—Bayern Munich, but De Bruyne scored two goals and added an assist in his master class performance.

Kevin De Bruyne’s 20 assists in 2014-15 was the most of any player in any of Europe’s top leagues, and it equaled an all-time Bundesliga record.

Despite only fielding De Bruyne nine times and sending him on loan to both Genk in Belgium and Werder Bremen in Germany, Chelsea pocketed nearly seven million pounds in profit on his to Wolfsburg—not bad business.

De Bruyne earned the Bundesliga Young Player of the Year Award in 2012-13, while at Werder Bremen on loan from Chelsea. In 2014-15, he earned Bundesliga Player of the Year, just the second Wolfsburg player to ever claim the honour.

One Tweet from Kevin De Bruyne helped propel the 2014 Special Olympic Games, held in Belgium, to resounding success.

The baby-faced assassin isn’t all warm fuzzies—in February he was fined €20,000 for swearing at an apparently too-slow 15-year-old ball boy during a game against Eintracht Frankfurt.

“I didn’t leave Chelsea because I have to go to the World Cup,” De Bruyne said ahead of Brazil 2014, “but just because I lost my joy.”

Retired German international Thomas Hitzlsperger says the time is right for De Bruyne to go to the next level:

“He’s the best player at Wolfsburg. It takes some quality to be the best player in the entire league that he was last season in the Bundesliga. That’s why I think he’s matured and is ready to make to next step and go to Manchester City.”

Wolfsburg manager Dieter Hecking, speaking to Kicker magazine, implied that De Bruyne might be too good for Manchester City:

“I expect Kevin to stay. With all due respect for Manchester City, it would be different if Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich made a move. I would understand a departure then.”

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