Chelsea’s sale of Belgian attacking midfielder Kevin DeBruyne seemed to be in part to recoup some of the £21m spent on Nemanja Matic, seven times the price the London club had sold him to Benfica for several years earlier. De Bruyne will be hoping to make Chelsea and particularly Mourinho, who questioned the midfielder’s attitude, realise they have made a similar mistake by selling him.
The signing of Matic has proved to be successful, the Serbian looks as if he’s never left Stamford Bridge and has added some much needed steel and reliability to the centre of the pitch. However, the sale of De Bruyne is slightly perplexing, given the bright future he appeared to have ahead of him and even more so when accompanied with the sale of Juan Mata.
Understandably, there were no shortage of suitors for De Bruyne given how well he performed on previous loan spells in Germany, and it was to Germany he returned, this time to Wolfsburg. Wolfsburg currently occupy a Europa League spot, which they will be hoping to hold on to until the end of the season.
De Bruyne’s task has been to replace Diego, the Brazilian returning to Atletico Madrid, where he had considerably more success than in Germany. In 15 games Diego managed just 3 goals and 2 assists, in less than half than that De Bruyne has provided 3 assists, although he is yet to register a goal for his new club.
Since arriving in Germany De Bruyne has played almost every minute for Wolfsburg, highlighting his importance to the team. A stark cry from the situation at Chelsea where more often than not he featured as a substitute, if at all. In his time as a first team player at Chelsea, De Bruyne had just two league starts and made one substitute appearance, although he did manage to supply an assist in the process.
Now at Wolfsburg, with a considerably less talented squad than at Chelsea De Bruyne is beginning to show what his former club missed out on. His three assists have all come in his last 4 games and one of them was against Bayern, showing that the player clearly has talent. That does suggest there is some consistency lacking from his game; that is partly due to adjusting to a new team, surroundings and regaining match fitness. De Bruyne is showing that he is defensively capable too, with 1.6 tackles and 0.6 interceptions per game, hardly the best figures but not bad for an attack minded player.
However, it’s going forward where the Belgian is beginning to distinguish himself once more. On average De Bruyne has 2.1 shots per game, if he continues at that sort of rate he’s bound to score a goal or two sooner rather than later. He is also creating 2.1 chances for his teammates, the highest in the current Wolfsburg squad, although the departing Diego had an average of 2.2.
Another asset of De Bruyne, which Chelsea fans didn’t really get to see, is his dribbling ability. With an average of 4.6 completed dribbles per game a total again only surpassed by Diego (5). Whilst at times it can be frustrating for a player to constantly dribble and not pass to teammates, especially if they’re giving the ball away, but when a player has the ability to do so successfully it’s one of the best things in the game.
De Bruyne’s statistics are more akin to his previous spell in Germany with Werder Bremen, where, in 33 games, he managed 9 assists and 10 goals. Whilst the goals are missing, the number of assists per game is higher, that in part is due to the small number of games he has played for Wolfsburg. The number of chances created per game is lower (2.1 compared to 2.6 in his time at Werder Bremen) the fact that the number of assists is higher suggest De Bruyne is playing with better, more clinical players now.
De Bruyne’s move was motivated on the player’s part by wanting first team football, especially in a World Cup year and with the fierce competition in the Belgium squad. De Bruyne has been a regular in that squad during qualifying and was the top scorer in a team that boasts the considerable attacking threats of Hazard, Lukaku and Benteke, to name but a few.
Withstanding an injury or sudden loss of form, (and even in the latter case) it’s unlikely De Bruyne will miss out on the World Cup, such was his importance to Belgium in qualifying, and it’ll give him a chance to prove Mourinho and all his other doubters wrong, on the biggest stage of all.
Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com