Man City star De Bruyne better than ever after Guardiola blast

Pep Guardiola’s harsh ‘simple things’ blast at Kevin De Bruyne has proved a MASTERSTROKE… the Belgian genius offers up more assists than ever, loves feeding Erling Haaland and will be crucial to their Treble bid

  • City manager Guardiola told De Bruyne to focus on the fundamentals last month
  • The Belgian midfielder has responded with two goals and eight assists since
  • He teed up Erling Haaland to score against Bayern in the Champions League 

Kevin De Bruyne is allegedly no good at football’s ‘simple things’ but who cares when his mastery of the difficult stuff is powering Manchester City’s Treble tilt.

Sometimes even the best footballers need a little chivvying along and Pep Guardiola’s criticism of the Belgian last month has proved to be an act of genius.

Back on March 13, after De Bruyne had been demoted to the bench for three of City’s last seven Premier League games, Guardiola said: ‘What I’d like – I spoke many times to him – is to go to the easy principles and do it well.

‘He has an incredible ability to make an assist, to score goals and see passes like no one else.

‘But I always have the belief that they will increase and get better when the simple things [are done well]: like don’t lose the ball, the mobility, the incredible capacity to be active in the movement.

Kevin De Bruyne is in sensational form and helped Manchester City reach the semi-finals of the Champions League with a 4-1 aggregate victory over Bayern Munich

Pep Guardiola told the Belgian to concentrate on the ‘simple things’ last month but must now be delighted with his form – De Bruyne has scored twice and supplied eight assists since then

‘The simple things: do it again, better and better. When this is going to happen the rest will come along.’

Sometimes it’s hard to understand how Guardiola’s mind works but the perception at the time was that all this was pretty harsh on a player with five goals and 18 assists to his credit.

Starting De Bruyne among City’s substitutes for a few games is eminently sensible given he is involved in the vast majority and the fixture list is so intense.

But Guardiola’s targeted criticism about the ‘simple things’ clearly had the desired motivational effect.

Since those comments, De Bruyne has scored twice and contributed eight assists in just seven outings.

Indeed, the day after Guardiola’s comment, he scored and set up the second of Erling Haaland’s five in the 7-0 rout of RB Leipzig in the Champions League last-16.

And De Bruyne’s ripostes have just kept on coming. A goal and an assist in the 4-1 win over Liverpool, two more set up at Southampton, another at Leicester and a couple in the FA Cup quarter-final against Burnley.

Then on Wednesday night, it was his thread-needle pass into Haaland that calmed the Bayern Munich squalls and killed off their Champions League quarter-final contest for good.

De Bruyne was UEFA’s Player of the Match in the Allianz Arena as City finished the job against Bayern to set up a mouth-watering semi-final against Real Madrid

The Belgian supplies the inch-perfect pass which resulted in Erling Haaland’s second-half goal

City were celebrating Haaland’s goal seconds later as they wrapped up the tie with Bayern

De Bruyne has already surpassed his previous season’s best for assists at Manchester City

So City marched on to another semi-final date with Real Madrid, alongside this Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United and their relentless reeling in of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League.

A trophy Treble to match Manchester United’s achievement in 1999 is moving into view and though City have plenty of momentum, they still have to navigate another 13 games to win it all.

De Bruyne and Haaland have forged a fantastic understanding 

As always, De Bruyne will be key. Whatever happens from here, the 31-year-old has already enjoyed his best season for City when it comes to assists.

Wednesday night’s pass to Haaland was his 23rd of the campaign, surpassing his previous best of 22 in the 2019-20 season.

De Bruyne is well out in front when it comes to assists in Europe’s top five leagues, with Paris Saint-Germain pair Lionel Messi and Neymar next with 18 and 16 respectively, followed by Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr on 15 across all competitions.

Career-wise, it was De Bruyne’s 259th assist, equalling the overall total of former England captain David Beckham but doing so in 15,000 fewer minutes, or around 167 full games.

Inevitably, he will surpass the 268 career assists of Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria’s 277 if he continues at his current rate, but the 390 supplied by Messi may prove beyond him.

If he stays at City for the next few years, De Bruyne, who has 101 Premier League assists, may threaten the record 162 of Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs.

He’ll almost certainly overtake Frank Lampard (102), Wayne Rooney (103) and Cesc Fabregas (111).

Keep going as he is and he’ll zoom past them by the end of this season as history beckons for City. 

Sometimes a bit of ‘tough love’ goes a long way.

De Bruyne leads the way for assists in Europe’s top five leagues – ahead of Lionel Messi 

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