Time is a healer. It makes you forget what once was. It’s nature’s way of getting over the breakdown of a relationship or the death of a loved one.
In sport, and particularly football, things are a bit different. Those who have ventured off soon come back. Indeed, we have taken Kevin De Bruyne for granted this last season, forgetting the quality that the player possesses. We have been to enamored by the likes of Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard, and James Maddison that we have neglected the elegance of the veteran playmaker.
Being out injured, it’s easy to deride what a remarkable talent he is, that he can turn a game on his head and be the difference between a win and a loss. And he did precisely that against Newcastle. He came on and played for a little below 25 minutes with Newcastle ahead 2-1 against the backdrop of a raucous St James’ Park. Despite having almost six months out of Premier League action, De Bruyne slotted back in seamlessly, instantly reaffirming himself as the best central midfielder in the world today, his efforts- and spectacular goal – securing a 3-2 win for the reigning champions.
We had rival fans telling us that KDB would be washed and old. My god, he’s come back looking better than ever.
— Steven (@StevenMcinerney) January 13, 2024
We talk about world-class often – it’s a cliché argument between fans, who all claim to use different metrics to allow said player to be acclaimed as such. For me, it’s not just about ability; otherwise, the likes of Alvaro Recoba and Mario Balotelli would be in the discussion. No, it’s about changing the narrative of a game through decision-making and guile. A world-class player makes up the important moments.
KDB IS BACK! 👑
Kevin De Bruyne comes on and produces a wonderful finish in his Premier League comeback game 👏
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) January 13, 2024
It’s easy to presume that De Bruyne, who has been outside public discourse for an extensive period, is merely a pawn in Pep Guardiola’s machine-like Man City squad, an expressionless entity who does nothing more than follow orders from the fervent Spaniard gesticulating on the touchline.
But tonight, we have rediscovered something incredible: Man City lifted up by their bootstraps, less so via the Guardiola playbook of possession-based football, but individual brilliance. De Bruyne is back, this time, a little bit older and wiser, with slicked-back hair and a score to settle. The Newcastle game is every bit of evidence that the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool should start to grow anxious over what the future holds in terms of the Premier League title race. Afterall, De Bruyne has the power to make his side’s ambitions unstoppable.