After mounting a disappointing title defence and falling short in the Champions League again last season, it’s no surprise that Manchester City are expected to strengthen their squad this summer.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side were level on points with Chelsea at the top of the table on New Year’s Day, but they finished eight points behind the Blues in second place.
They’ve been heavily linked with a bid for Wolfsburg’s Kevin de Bruyne, and the midfielder has revealed there has been “informal contact” between his agent and City, despite murmurs of a move to Old Trafford also being mentioned, as per Sky Sports.
De Bruyne enjoyed a superb campaign, and he was integral to Wolfsburg finishing second in the Bundesliga, securing Champions League qualification for the first time since 2009/10. The Belgium international also scored in the DFB-Pokal final against Dortmund, helping the club to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.
Would he be a smart addition to the City squad, and is a move to the Etihad in his best interests?
After a disappointing spell at Chelsea, De Bruyne joined Wolfsburg last January, but it’s in the season just finished that he’s really shown how good he can be.
He scored 10 league goals, and he also registered 20 assists, more than any other player in the division. He’s a skilful, creative attacking midfielder, and his superb displays were recognised by his fellow professionals, who voted him the best outfield player in the Bundesliga, as reported by ESPN.
He tends to play in the number ten role, but he can also operate on the flanks if necessary, and he completed 99 take ons in league action, almost twice as many as any City midfielder (David Silva and Yaya Toure both completed 51).
As good as De Bruyne may be, City’s attack appears to be the least of their problems at face value. They scored the most goals (83), created the most chances (532), and completed the most passes (18,327) of any side in the division, but they conceded more goals than any other top four team (38).
The defence does need to be looked at, and Vincent Kompany’s regression is particularly worrying, but recruiting De Bruyne would allow the club to double down on their greatest strength. Pellegrini’s side have the attacking firepower to outscore the vast majority of opponents, and De Bruyne would add another string to their bow.
As dangerous as City are going forward, they could do with another dribbler to break down defences that are content to sit deep, particularly when Sergio Aguero plays as a lone striker and is watched by two opponents.
The above Comparison Matrix shows that De Bruyne completed significantly more take ons per 90 minutes than any of Pellegrini’s current options for the number ten role.
He also created the most chances, and while Bas Dost had a very impressive season for Wolfsburg, he’s no Aguero. The Argentine was the top scorer in the league last season, and he’d thrive off De Bruyne’s delivery from open play and dead-ball situations.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that he would go into that central playmaking position if he were to join City though, and his ability to play out wide would give the manager a range of options.
If City lined up in a 4-2-3-1, De Bruyne and Silva could occupy the wider roles in the band of three behind Aguero, with Toure in the middle. The two wider players could interchange, giving City’s play a fluidity that would be very hard to handle if they’re on their game.
There’s been a sense that City also need to reduce the average age of their squad, and at 23, De Bruyne should only get better in the years ahead. Silva and Toure are now 29 and 32 respectively, and if De Bruyne develops as hoped, he could eventually step up as the team’s main creative force.
His talent is not in doubt, but he lasted just half a season at Chelsea in 2013/14, and he reportedly told Jose Mourinho that he needed to play every game to show his best form, according to the Telegraph.
He was never going to be granted that status at a club of Chelsea’s size when he was relatively unproven, and he would certainly have to compete for his place at City. If he can deal with that, his ability could help the club to return to the summit of English football, and seriously challenge in Europe.