Forget Ronaldo and Messi, this man's number 1 now
It never ceases to amaze me the amount of players that never gain the recognition their game deserves. I don’t question the ability of the players preferred, they are of course world-class in their own right in what they bring to the game and any team privileged to have them.
For years now Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have hogged the headlines, scoring goals, providing assists and showcasing the flair modern football fans enjoy. This has led to them sharing Fifa's Player of the Year award (Ballon d'Or) for 11 of the last 12 years.
It’s also no surprise the sums of money that does the rounds across the footballing world today.
It’s not just a sport, it’s an entertainment business.
I’ll never forget being a 14 year old boy playing at Arsenal and listening to my teammate David Bentley state “I don’t want to be a footballer, I want to be a star, an entertainer.”
Fast forward a few years and this is now where we find ourselves. It’s not just a sport, it’s an entertainment business. The Ronaldo’s, Messi’s, Neymar’s, Mbappé’s of this world fit the criteria – on and off the field. They entertain supporters, that’s why they’re paid the big bucks. It’s not too dissimilar to a Hollywood actor or actress in terms of salary, the main difference is footballers entertain for longer and they do it live.
You could argue footballers are not paid enough, but who am I to give ammunition to footballing agents across the globe to demand higher salaries for their players.
There’s many players striving to be the entertainers of tomorrow and unless you’re completely sold on the Roy of the Rovers comic books, where one player makes a team successful, you’ll understand my stance of football being a team game. A collective effort of the best starting line up the organisation/club has to offer the fans in entertainment value to win the game in question.
Since the English Premier League resumed after the COVID-19 lockdown, I was mesmerised for most, if not all of Man City’s games. In their final 10 games they produced 35 goals, the average of 3.5 goals per game must scare the living hell out of the other clubs hoping to stop them from Champions League glory this season. One man that is undoubtedly unplayable at the moment is no other than Kevin De Bruyne, or KDB as the mainstream media refer to him – I can’t lie, I refer to him as that too.
‘KDB’ managed 5 goals and 5 assists in those last 10 games, that’s not a bad return for a centre midfielder, almost Lampard-esque, yes I admired a Chelsea player – rare for a QPR fan like me to admit, but he was a great midfielder.
Manchester City’s mercurial number 17 isn’t just any player, he’s now the joint record holder for assists made during a single season of the Premier League having joined Thierry Henry’s longstanding 20 record, set back in the 2002/03 season.
It feels like he’s been around for years since we first heard of him as the stroppy teenager moaning about not getting the game time he felt he deserved at Chelsea all those years ago.
Fast forward 155 Premier League appearances later, made up of 108 wins and just 22 losses, the Belgian maestro has produced 36 goals and an astonishing 66 assists…..all from central midfield. Looking through his stats it’s somewhat of a surprise to see he’s never scored a header in the Premier League!
Check his stats out for yourself below.
We can debate if his success is down to the quality of the players around him who provide him with the opportunity to express himself on the pitch, but for this blog I ask:
Name a better central midfielder in today’s Premier League than KDB?
The short answer depends on who you support I guess and what you look for in a central midfielder, but if you’re anything like me and like exciting game play, forward looking players with drive and role model discipline, then there isn’t one.
His first goal on the last day of the season against Norwich sums up just how good this man’s game is right now. Edge of the box, silky skill combo, out of his feet, back of the net….all done with such delicacy like he was merely practising alone at the end of a team training session.
Whilst he has all the ball mastery skills and finishing qualities, he’s not afraid to ask questions of his teammates with his passes either. If you put into a YouTube search box ‘Kevin De Bruyne assist’s’ you’ll be see the type of passes I’m talking about. He takes gambles with his passes to create opportunities for his team – they typically result in a goal, especially over the last two seasons.
If you have a young child aspiring to be a Ronaldo or a Messi, then you should be converting them to follow the real number 1 in football of the future, Kevin De Bruyne. He’s so special, we’re privileged to be alive and see him play.
His drive and ability to deliver consistently time and again is why he stands out more than anyone in today's game, not just in the Premier League either. You give him an inch of space and you’re in trouble, don’t give him that inch and he’ll just make it for himself. Foul him and you won’t see him angry, he’ll let his football do the talking. He’s never received a red card in the Premier League and only a measly 14 yellow cards too.
For me he is just that god damn good, add in around him the Sterling’s, Mahrez’s, Bernado Silva’s, Sergio Aguero’s and an exceptional player's with vision, like KDB, will look even better.
One of his attributes I admire most, aside from all the skills he possesses with the ball at his feet - his desire and attitude. He’s not afraid to get in the thick of things when it gets physical and is it only me that thinks this - just when you think he’s tired, he pushes through the pain, the short breath and plays even better and delivers something magical to the game again.
He never takes the lazy route through a game, always striving to do something at the top of his ability, always looking for that pass to break the lines of the opposition.
I could talk the back legs off a donkey…and it’s mates where KDB is concerned. It’s somewhat disappointing to think with other players grabbing headlines he may have to wait sometime before he receives recognition from Fifa for the Ballon d’Or.
He’s not alone in this category of players to miss out on the most sought after prize for professional footballers either. There’s been the likes of Thierry Henry, Paolo Maldini, Xavi, Dennis Bergkamp, Jurgen Klinsmann and Eric Cantona to name a few all missing out over the years. However, we did have Luca Modric win the award back in 2018 so there might just be some hope for KDB yet in the future.
If you’re interested or in fact just bored, take a look at KDB's game play on YouTube….better yet, show your child and encourage them to take risks on the pitch next time they play too.
As my coaches over the years always said to me, when your coach is talking to you before a game think of that like classroom learning at school, they then let you out onto the pitch to play, think of that like break time – the pitch is your playground, go and have fun, express yourself and try new things.