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Kevin de Bruyne


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10 minutes ago, Hamilton said:

I’m wondering if he stays if City’s european ban go ahead, maybe we can loan him 2 seasons 😜

I think Bayern will take him. 

Been in Germany, can easily go back. 

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For Christ's sake, how many times will we have to go through this...?! Hazard earns 540 000 fucking EUROS per month, which does 135k euros per week = £116k at the current exchange rate. All French-spe

The only way KDB is gonna get back in the Chelsea lineup is by actually playing well, something he hasn't done since this summer.

I stayed away from this topic as long as I could — and hopped to do so for the upcoming months — but I am too bothered by what's going on in this topic. And, Choulo, if I'm quoting you on this, it's n

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On 15/09/2019 at 9:08 PM, Robchels said:

Well,  my unpopular opinion around Here has always been that he’s Belgium’s best player, not hazard.

hazard is more easily contained, still not easy obviously, but teams can give him the side and contain his influence. Kevin plays in the centre and has a huge passing rage, which means that he can be dangerous even still far away from opposition goal, which means away from the contested areas.

and then if he does get close to the opposition goal, he can still both assist and score from afar. That’s a lot to worry about when playing against him.

Therefore a team who wants anything from playing Belgium needs to stop Kevin, imo.

I met my younger daughter's then boyfriend for the first time in summer 2012. A while later we met again and talked football when he asked what I thought of Eden. I told him that we had sent the best player we signed that year out on loan to Germany. I had watched a lot of KDB when he finished the season with Genk after joining us in the January window and fell in love with his game.

Full disclosure, I watched virtually every game KDB played at Bremen but was sometimes less than impressed with his displays there, often posting to say that I thought his performances were attracting more praise than they deserved. That's not to say I thought he was always bad; the quality he possesses will eventually shine through, but he did have a few bad games for Werder.

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38 minutes ago, OhForAGreavsie said:

Full disclosure, I watched virtually every game KDB played at Bremen but was sometimes less than impressed with his displays there, often posting to say that I thought his performances were attracting more praise than they deserved. That's not to say I thought he was always bad; the quality he possesses will eventually shine through, but he did have a few bad games for Werder.

VfL Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg Kevin De Bruyne #9ine | スポーツ, サッカーKevin De Bruyne deal to Manchester City 'may soon be in place ...

 

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I met my younger daughter's then boyfriend for the first time in summer 2012. A while later we met again and talked football when he asked what I thought of Eden. I told him that we had sent the best player we signed that year out on loan to Germany. I had watched a lot of KDB when he finished the season with Genk after joining us in the January window and fell in love with his game.
Full disclosure, I watched virtually every game KDB played at Bremen but was sometimes less than impressed with his displays there, often posting to say that I thought his performances were attracting more praise than they deserved. That's not to say I thought he was always bad; the quality he possesses will eventually shine through, but he did have a few bad games for Werder.
Don't forget that KDB played in so many different positions at Bremen like playing on the wings, as a striker and sometimes as a no. 10 or 8.
He basically played all offensive positions you can imagine.There were many People in Germany, including me, that realised that he was going to become a monster type of player. Sadly, Mourinho did not realise what average fans could see...

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3 hours ago, killer1257 said:

Don't forget that KDB played in so many different positions at Bremen like playing on the wings, as a striker and sometimes as a no. 10 or 8.
He basically played all offensive positions you can imagine

A chicken and egg situation. It could be argued that he struggled for consistency because he was used in various positions, or that he was used in various positions because he wasn't performing up to his potential often enough in any one of them. Either way, I regret the loss of KDB far more than that of Moh Salah. We are where we are. :(

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4 hours ago, Vesper said:

VfL Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg Kevin De Bruyne #9ine | スポーツ, サッカーKevin De Bruyne deal to Manchester City 'may soon be in place ...

 

Yes, I tend to think that it was KDB's spell at Wolfsburg that opened the eyes of the world to the full range of his talent. It was undoubtedly his year at Bremen however which encouraged them to pounce for him when he decided to force his way out of Chelsea.

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On 11-5-2020 at 4:37 PM, OhForAGreavsie said:

I met my younger daughter's then boyfriend for the first time in summer 2012. A while later we met again and talked football when he asked what I thought of Eden. I told him that we had sent the best player we signed that year out on loan to Germany. I had watched a lot of KDB when he finished the season with Genk after joining us in the January window and fell in love with his game.

Full disclosure, I watched virtually every game KDB played at Bremen but was sometimes less than impressed with his displays there, often posting to say that I thought his performances were attracting more praise than they deserved. That's not to say I thought he was always bad; the quality he possesses will eventually shine through, but he did have a few bad games for Werder.

He did have 10 goals and 9 assists in the BL for a bad team. Pure class since he was born. Mourinho just chose for Oscar because he was a little bit better at defending.

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On 11-5-2020 at 9:20 PM, OhForAGreavsie said:

A chicken and egg situation. It could be argued that he struggled for consistency because he was used in various positions, or that he was used in various positions because he wasn't performing up to his potential often enough in any one of them. Either way, I regret the loss of KDB far more than that of Moh Salah. We are where we are. :(

Imagine us dominating the world and winning the CL with KDB, Hazard and Salah. It's such a shame this isn't happening now :(

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He did have 10 goals and 9 assists in the BL for a bad team. Pure class since he was born. Mourinho just chose for Oscar because he was a little bit better at defending.
I think that he chose Oscar because he is brazilian and they speak the same language

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31 minutes ago, killer1257 said:

I think that he chose Oscar because he is brazilian and they speak the same language

More like he chose Oscar because at the time he was more proven of the two (decent season at Chelsea and #10 shirt for Brazil) and the club had just spend a large amount of money on Oscar the year before, as compared to KdB who was bought on the cheap and had a great season out on loan but it was for a non-PL club so Jose obviously didn't value it as highly. Mourinho probably knew De Bruyne had potential but he just wasn't willing to put in the work into developing him.

Even more so than Oscar I would consider Willian's signing to be the main reason behind De Bruyne's downfall at Chelsea. KdB started the season well playing alongside Oscar, not instead of him, and had Jose not signed Willian he most likely would've continued to feature in games, either as a starter or at least a substitute, and eventually showed Jose and everyone else just how good he was.

But after Mourinho bought Willian at the closing stages of the window I already suspected KdB's chances of making it were blown because there were just too many established players for the AM positions in the squad and Mourinho was always going to prefer his own big signings ahead of the likes of KdB. I remember not wanting Willian for this very reason.

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32 minutes ago, killer1257 said:

I think that he chose Oscar because he is brazilian and they speak the same language

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Legendary coach, but legendary blunder also. Oh oh, Jose. Where is Oscar now? Is he still playing football?

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1 hour ago, MCM4PR3Z said:

Imagine us dominating the world and winning the CL with KDB, Hazard and Salah. It's such a shame this isn't happening now :(

I know but I cover that it was necessary that it happen under Mourinho. 

Because before the cloud of Mourinho hang in this club. No one was good enough then Mourinho. 

After Mourinho screwed up we put to bury that cloud that was hanging in the club and in within fans. 

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14 minutes ago, MCM4PR3Z said:

Where is Oscar now? Is he still playing football?

In China, where he's been the last three and a half years. Still only 28 years old btw.

What a way to waste a good career that move turned out to be, pretty much nobody has seen him play or even heard about him for years and he's not been called up for Brazil since then either. 

Lots of money on offer tho, can't really blame him for taking the 500k/week deal if his heart wasn't that much into playing football or winning things. For some people it's just a career in something they're good at and going by some interviews I read a while back it looked like he's not regretted the move one bit. 

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One night in Swindon: How Kevin De Bruyne’s spell at Chelsea unravelled

https://theathletic.com/1882427/2020/06/25/kevin-de-bruyne-chelsea-swindon-manchester-city-jose-mourinho/

One night in Swindon: How Kevin De Bruyne's spell at Chelsea ...

The sight of Kevin De Bruyne trotting out at Stamford Bridge in the colours of the away team will always induce pangs of regret among those with Chelsea affiliations. The absence of supporters on Thursday night will make no difference on that front.

Every rasped crossfield pass or sumptuously-weighted through ball will provoke reminders of what they could have had. Hindsight can cloud judgment but the Belgian, perhaps more than fellow Chelsea old boys Mohamed Salah or Romelu Lukaku, always felt as if he had the potential to be a generational player. Instead, underused and unsettled, he slipped through the net.

It is now over six years since the £18 million divorce which took De Bruyne from the periphery in southwest London to Wolfsburg, regular involvement and, ultimately, career fulfilment.

There was fault on all sides to prompt the parting of the ways. Chelsea will always point to the player’s lack of patience. Jose Mourinho, a head coach under pressure to deliver instant success, clearly lacked faith in a 22-year-old who was relatively unproven. De Bruyne has admitted his naivety ensured he was not in the best position to excel during the rare opportunities he was granted.

Arguably, the most critical of those came at Swindon Town in the League Cup third round in late September 2013, a game that the visitors had won comfortably by the interval and, at the time, appeared more significant for the flickering revivals of Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, as well as a serious injury suffered by summer signing Marco van Ginkel. The Dutchman is still on Chelsea’s books but has not played for them since.

De Bruyne would represent Chelsea again, starting two further ties in the competition and making three cameo appearances totalling 26 minutes in the Champions League before Christmas that season. But his faltering display against third-tier opposition at the County Ground seemed to have cemented his lowly status in Mourinho’s mind.

There was never likely to be a recovery at the club after that underwhelming autumn evening in Wiltshire.


De Bruyne always had the tools to succeed.

Piet de Visser, the Dutch coach turned scout whose influence was so prominent at Chelsea from the early days of Roman Abramovich’s ownership, had spotted it and has made a point of reminding the world ever since. The Genk midfielder had been interesting bigger Belgian sides Standard Liege and Anderlecht, prompting De Visser to insist the oligarch watch clips of the youngster in action.

According to the scout, Abramovich’s reaction was apparently to pick up the phone to his technical director, Michael Emenalo, and decree: “Buy him.”

Within days, the agent Patrick De Koster received an invite to the Russian’s yacht in Antibes on France’s Cote d’Azur to discuss a move, completed on deadline day in January 2012 as time ticked down on Andre Villas-Boas’ brief tenure. De Bruyne spent the remainder of that season on loan back at the club through whose youth ranks he had graduated. Werder Bremen of Germany then borrowed him for the subsequent campaign after a pre-season spent with Roberto Di Matteo’s European Cup winners when all the focus had been on the new arrival and fellow attacking midfielder Eden Hazard.

“The plan was always for me to go on loan for a bit,” De Bruyne conceded in an interview last year with The Players’ Tribune. “So I went to Bremen, and that season went great.”

De Bruyne Bremen

So impressive was he in the Bundesliga, where he played in six different attacking positions, including centre-forward, and scored 10 goals in 33 appearances, De Bruyne was voted Germany’s young player of the year. Jurgen Klopp was keen to buy him for Borussia Dortmund, where his range of passing would have complemented a side brimming with attacking endeavour. Bayer Leverkusen also expressed an interest. Either may have appeared a more natural fit than in the set-up back at his parent club, who had just announced Mourinho’s second coming as their manager.

“I thought maybe Chelsea would let me go but then Mourinho texted me: ‘You are staying. I want you to be part of this team’, so I thought, ‘OK, great. I’m in his plans’. When I arrived for pre-season, the vibe was good.”

De Bruyne Chelsea

He travelled with the squad to southeast Asia, starting in Mourinho’s first game back in charge against the Singha All-Stars in Thailand’s capital Bangkok before injuring a knee scoring the team’s second goal in a victory over a Malaysia XI. Yet, even by then, the manager had sensed an impatience among the more youthful members of his touring party. “In this moment, almost every player has an ego and almost every player has people around them to feed their ego,” he told reporters a few days before that win in Kuala Lumpur. “Sometimes, the young boys are a bit confused. Sometimes, they think they are a bit more important than the club. Sometimes, they do just a little step forward and they think everything is done.

“When I meet all these kids, one of their main issues is: ‘Am I going to play? Do I have a chance to go to the World Cup (in 2014)? If I don’t play here enough, probably I’m going to lose a World Cup possibility, so probably, it is better for me to stay in Vitesse one more year’ – Van Ginkel. ‘Probably, it is better for me to stay in Germany one more year’ – De Bruyne. ‘Probably, it is better for me to go on loan to another Premier League club’ – Lukaku. The kids, they have expectations, motivations and, from this early age, (being with Chelsea) is a good education. They can be a very good group. The older guys here, they are a good support, good examples, work very hard, very respectful, so for these kids to be with Frank Lampard and company is also a big help.”

De Bruyne Chelsea Lampard

De Bruyne would train as normal back at Cobham, where visitors grew accustomed to seeing him stay behind with Lampard after training sessions as the pair worked on their shooting. “We had a very good midfield, a very good and strong squad, and Kevin was young,” the former Chelsea defender, Branislav Ivanovic, tells The Athletic. “He needed to practise but, from the first loan (in Bremen), you could see he was an amazing player. He was improving everything, even at Chelsea. Sometimes, he reminded me of Frank with his finishing and his passing. I think (in terms of making him what he is today) it was a good experience for him.”

He then started and impressed in the 2013-14 opening-day win over Hull City, and was also in the XI in a goalless draw away to Manchester United eight days later. But then, overnight, he found himself quietly shunted to one side with others — Oscar, Mikel John Obi, Ramires, Andre Schurrle, Lampard, Willian, Mata — offered opportunities as the new head coach scrutinised his hand. “I thought I’d played OK — not brilliant but pretty good,” recalled De Bruyne. “Then, after the fourth game (against Swindon), that was it. I was on the bench and I never really got a chance again. I didn’t get an explanation. I was just out of favour for some reason.”

De Bruyne Chelsea

He played five minutes of football in a month. Then came the cup tie in Swindon, and a chance to stake his claim.


Nathan Thompson does not need prompting when it comes to that Chelsea game. He was playing right-back for Mark Cooper’s side that evening at the County Ground and, when the team-sheet was filed prior to kick-off, he recalls glancing down the visitors’ line-up with a growing sense of dread.

Swindon had beaten local rivals Bristol City a few days earlier but would have to prise apart Champions League and Europa League winning centre-backs in David Luiz and Gary Cahill if they were to prevail again. Michael Essien lay in wait in central midfield. Willian, a recent £32 million acquisition from Anzhi Makhachkala, and Mata, voted Chelsea’s player of the year in his two previous seasons at the club, would be a threat from the flanks. Torres, a £50 million striker who had won a World Cup and two European Championships but still had a considerable point to prove, would lead the line.

Mourinho’s selected XI had cost around £180 million to assemble. In that company, their No 15 was only afforded a passing glance. The same applied to the game itself.

“We all knew Mourinho took that competition seriously and liked to put strong teams out in it, so the quality in their line-up didn’t surprise me,” says Thompson. “But it was a ridiculous team when you look at it. I mean, Essien, those centre-halves, the front three… Van Ginkel went down really early on, so they brought on Ramires, who went and scored then came off again at half-time for John Terry. John Terry!

Mata Chelsea Swindon

“I’d imagined I might be up against Mata, who hadn’t been having the best of times under Mourinho up to then and was apparently under a bit of pressure but he kept rolling inside and ran the show. That left me up against Ryan Bertrand for most of the night, playing so high up the pitch, and he was so aggressive, so sharp. It wasn’t like they completely dominated the ball — we liked to pass it around as well — but you looked at them and they were such athletes. A different specimen of player.

“They brought on Demba Ba late on (for De Bruyne, with 12 minutes left) and he’d been getting peppered at the time, a lot of stick, but he was so quick. I remember just trying to catch my breath at one point in the second half and thinking, ‘Frigging hell, the difference is brutal’. It was nuts. Ba was a player who couldn’t get in their starting team but he was so far ahead (of us).

“But De Bruyne… he wasn’t playing anything like he is now. I mean, nothing like he is now. It sounds silly to say it but he struck me as someone really lacking in confidence, someone almost playing within himself, nervous to try things. That can often be down to management. Some players flourish under some managers. Others don’t. And it was as if Mourinho was on his case. You could see it was affecting him: he just didn’t make an impact. To see what he went on and achieved is just mad but, at the time, it looked as if English football was a bit of a shock to his system.”

De Bruyne Chelsea Swindon

The focus was drawn to Mata, making a third start under Mourinho, excelling as a No 10 and then, as a coup de grace, conjuring a tackle near the byline deep into stoppage time to concede a corner and set those on the bench purring. The penny had apparently dropped that all would be expected to contribute defensively under this new regime. “There’s no such thing as a luxury player these days,” offered the assistant coach, Steve Holland, in his post-match assessment. “Jose’s made it quite clear what he wants the attacking players to do in all those positions: not just to Juan, but to Willian, Kevin, Andre, everyone. We were very pleased with Juan’s contribution.”

The coaching staff would have been just as encouraged to see Torres scoring one — the first, outside the UEFA Super Cup, by a Chelsea striker that season — and setting up Ramires for the other. David Luiz, omitted from the squad a few days previously against Fulham, spent the second half playing in midfield. De Bruyne’s display, other than that one cursory reference to “Kevin” by Holland, did not warrant a mention.

Mourinho had expected the youngster to deliver dynamism from his berth in a three behind Torres. This, after all, was a player who had been kicking his heels on the sidelines for weeks, desperate for greater involvement. The staff had anticipated him rampaging all over lower-league opposition, infiltrating Swindon’s lines and driving Chelsea forward. Impress and he would be back in the fold. Instead, there was precious little creativity or even energy. He had played 78 minutes that night and, even against players from the middle of the third tier, they had rather passed him by.

“We’d played Tottenham Hotspur in a pre-season friendly a couple of months earlier and I’d come up against Gareth Bale in what was actually his last game before he signed for Real Madrid,” adds Thompson, now 29 and still plying his trade in League One with Peterborough United. “Talk about confidence levels: he was at the other end of the spectrum to De Bruyne at the time. Bale couldn’t do anything wrong. He could just flick a switch and stampede all over you. I remember him looking as if he wasn’t fussed, then picking the ball up, a little burst of pace, and scoring with an unbelievable shot from the edge of the area.

Bale Tottenham Swindon

“It was all coming so naturally to him. He didn’t have to think about anything but you could tell with De Bruyne that he was over-thinking everything. He was nervous. Things weren’t going his way, he was unsure about how he was playing, what he was supposed to do, and that made everything harder. There was no fluency to his game at all.”

De Bruyne has subsequently conceded as much.

“I made some mistakes myself,” he said. “I was a bit naive about the way that you have to handle yourself as a Premier League footballer. What most fans don’t realise is that when you’re out of favour at a club, you don’t get nearly the same attention during training. At some clubs, it’s like you don’t exist anymore. If it happened to me now, it wouldn’t be a problem. I know enough to be able to train on my own and take care of myself.

“But when you’re 21, 22, you don’t understand what it takes. When I got that chance to play against Swindon, I wasn’t in good shape. And that was pretty much it for me.”


It would be three days before the world realised De Bruyne may have wrecked his chances at Stamford Bridge. The media corps had trooped down to Cobham later that week to listen to Mourinho preview a mouth-watering derby away at Tottenham. The talk had all been about his first head-to-head with his compatriot and former Porto and Chelsea analyst Villas-Boas, one-time friends turned foes.

The barrage of questions about his relationship with the recently-appointed Spurs manager had been so relentless that Chelsea’s head of communications felt compelled to interject at one point to move the discussion on to alternative topics.

In truth, even once the broadcast section of the press conference had concluded and the Portuguese was addressing the daily newspapers — he tended to relax slightly once the cameras were turned off — the responses were generally bitty and rather unsatisfactory.

He refused to bite on the issue of Willian, who had originally been destined for Spurs that summer before Chelsea moved late to lure him across the capital.

“I did nothing. I don’t know the story. It was not a question of persuasion. It was a question of connection. He always had the dream to play for Chelsea.”

He did not seem particularly keen to engage and, as was often the case, it became a matter of probing him with different subjects until he made it clear he had an opinion he wished to express. There was always something he was eager to air. De Bruyne did not crop up until the 20th question flung from the floor.

Did he make an impression on you in midweek and, like Mata, show that he buys into everything you want him to do?

“Not so much.”

It was the abruptness of the response that made those present take notice.

OK. You’re down on numbers. Could De Bruyne perhaps fill in for the injured Ramires in central midfield?

“Let’s see. Let’s work. But the first thing is the understanding that Bremen don’t have the same squad as Chelsea, and when you have more competition, you have to compete every game and every minute. For example, for the selection tomorrow I have to base that on the game against Swindon. If we all agree that Mata did enough to play against Tottenham, somebody has to drop out. So Kevin is out of selection.

“This is the kind of situation they all have to understand. I have to try and be honest with the players and my choices. The next time Kevin is on the pitch, he has to think he’s playing for his next appearance. At Bremen, he played every game. Here, he’s not playing every game. In Bremen, he didn’t need to prove himself so much. This is a different reality. He’s competing against very good players, so every minute he’s on the pitch, he has to work really hard.”

The implication was clear. An opportunity had been passed up and, despite declaring publicly that he was “a fighter” who would scrap to regain a place, the young Belgian found himself cast into the wilderness, especially when it came to the Premier League. He was not even in the 18-man squad at White Hart Lane that Saturday and was also omitted from the subsequent midweek trip to Steaua Bucharest of Romania in the Champions League. He trained with the club’s development squad while his senior team-mates were away, an indignity that did not go forgotten.

De Bruyne Chelsea

His was not the only frustration at the marginalisation.

De Visser, speaking to Het Laatste Nieuws in 2016, suggested he had personally taken up the issue with Mourinho. “We had some discussions. He would say, ‘Piet, I regret it too but the boy wants to leave. He doesn’t want to train under me anymore’. I told him, ‘Of course the boy wants to play — he’s ready to play’. I tried to convince him of Kevin’s qualities. But Mourinho just repeated, ‘Piet, he doesn’t want to train’, so I went to see a training session — and Kevin was the best player on the pitch.

“Look, Mourinho is a performance-focused manager who has achieved a lot in his career. He wants to work with fully-developed players. He thought Kevin needed one, maybe two more years. But Kevin was ready. And Kevin was convinced he was ready, too.”

It would be December before Mourinho offered anything close to an olive branch for the outcast, restoring De Bruyne to his match-day squad for a madcap 4-3 win away at Sunderland, having declared on the eve of the trip to Wearside that the 22-year old was “showing desire and working very hard”. By then, Spain’s Atletico Madrid had joined Wolfsburg and Leverkusen in sounding out De Koster over a possible mid-season move.

“I feel sorry for not giving him big opportunities up to now but he’s working better than ever,” said Mourinho. “He’s sad when he’s not selected or playing but he’s working professionally which, for me, was a change from the beginning. When he works the way he is, he has to have a chance. I like him as a player. I’ve learned now how to like him, also, as a kid. He’s a good kid and he’s showing he’s a good professional. Hopefully, I can give him enough time on the pitch so he decides to stay in a happy way.”

Yet, having been an unused substitute for the next match away to Stoke City, the midfielder slipped back into obscurity until summoned to Mourinho’s office at the training ground later that month. There, the head coach produced a piece of paper and, deciphering the analyst’s scrawl, rattled off the Belgian’s contributions to date — one assist, no goals, 10 recoveries of possession — before offering up the comparative numbers for Willian, Oscar, Mata and Schurrle.

Silence.

“Jose was just waiting for me to say something. ‘But some of these guys have played 15, 20 games. I’ve only played three, so it’s going to be different, no?’,” De Bruyne told The Players’ Tribune. “It was so strange. We had a bit of a conversation about me going back out on loan. Mata was also out of favour at the time, so Jose said, ‘Well, you know, if Mata leaves, then you will be the fifth choice instead of sixth’.

“I was completely honest. ‘I feel like the club doesn’t really want me here. I want to play football. I’d rather you sell me’. Jose was a bit disappointed but to be fair to him, I think he also understood that I absolutely needed to play. So the club ended up selling me and there was no big problem at all. Chelsea got more than double the price they paid for me, and I got into a much better situation at Wolfsburg.”

At the time, given the player’s reluctance to rejoin the club’s legion of loanees, the £18 million fee seemed attractive. Chelsea insisted on inserting a sell-on clause to ensure they might benefit from any future sale but there was no buy-back option. That hardly felt like a risk given the player’s toils but was perhaps their biggest error. But, at the time, most at the club had grown tired of the grumbling undercurrent of dissatisfaction that had accompanied him all season. A fresh start seemed to suit everyone.

De Bruyne City Chelsea

The blossoming of his career in the years since casts that decision in a very different light. Admittedly, Chelsea would win the title in two of the three seasons that followed, with De Bruyne subsequently pointing to that as evidence they “would not have any regrets, either, with everything that happened”. But seeing him dazzle so consistently with Manchester City provides a constant reminder of what might have been at Stamford Bridge.

As one of the members of Chelsea’s hierarchy would later admit, “everyone is implicated” in De Bruyne’s failure to make an impression at the club.

Things might have been very different had he put Swindon to the sword.

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44 minutes ago, Vesper said:

One night in Swindon: How Kevin De Bruyne’s spell at Chelsea unravelled

https://theathletic.com/1882427/2020/06/25/kevin-de-bruyne-chelsea-swindon-manchester-city-jose-mourinho/

One night in Swindon: How Kevin De Bruyne's spell at Chelsea ...

The sight of Kevin De Bruyne trotting out at Stamford Bridge in the colours of the away team will always induce pangs of regret among those with Chelsea affiliations. The absence of supporters on Thursday night will make no difference on that front.

Every rasped crossfield pass or sumptuously-weighted through ball will provoke reminders of what they could have had. Hindsight can cloud judgment but the Belgian, perhaps more than fellow Chelsea old boys Mohamed Salah or Romelu Lukaku, always felt as if he had the potential to be a generational player. Instead, underused and unsettled, he slipped through the net.

It is now over six years since the £18 million divorce which took De Bruyne from the periphery in southwest London to Wolfsburg, regular involvement and, ultimately, career fulfilment.

There was fault on all sides to prompt the parting of the ways. Chelsea will always point to the player’s lack of patience. Jose Mourinho, a head coach under pressure to deliver instant success, clearly lacked faith in a 22-year-old who was relatively unproven. De Bruyne has admitted his naivety ensured he was not in the best position to excel during the rare opportunities he was granted.

Arguably, the most critical of those came at Swindon Town in the League Cup third round in late September 2013, a game that the visitors had won comfortably by the interval and, at the time, appeared more significant for the flickering revivals of Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, as well as a serious injury suffered by summer signing Marco van Ginkel. The Dutchman is still on Chelsea’s books but has not played for them since.

De Bruyne would represent Chelsea again, starting two further ties in the competition and making three cameo appearances totalling 26 minutes in the Champions League before Christmas that season. But his faltering display against third-tier opposition at the County Ground seemed to have cemented his lowly status in Mourinho’s mind.

There was never likely to be a recovery at the club after that underwhelming autumn evening in Wiltshire.


De Bruyne always had the tools to succeed.

Piet de Visser, the Dutch coach turned scout whose influence was so prominent at Chelsea from the early days of Roman Abramovich’s ownership, had spotted it and has made a point of reminding the world ever since. The Genk midfielder had been interesting bigger Belgian sides Standard Liege and Anderlecht, prompting De Visser to insist the oligarch watch clips of the youngster in action.

According to the scout, Abramovich’s reaction was apparently to pick up the phone to his technical director, Michael Emenalo, and decree: “Buy him.”

Within days, the agent Patrick De Koster received an invite to the Russian’s yacht in Antibes on France’s Cote d’Azur to discuss a move, completed on deadline day in January 2012 as time ticked down on Andre Villas-Boas’ brief tenure. De Bruyne spent the remainder of that season on loan back at the club through whose youth ranks he had graduated. Werder Bremen of Germany then borrowed him for the subsequent campaign after a pre-season spent with Roberto Di Matteo’s European Cup winners when all the focus had been on the new arrival and fellow attacking midfielder Eden Hazard.

“The plan was always for me to go on loan for a bit,” De Bruyne conceded in an interview last year with The Players’ Tribune. “So I went to Bremen, and that season went great.”

De Bruyne Bremen

So impressive was he in the Bundesliga, where he played in six different attacking positions, including centre-forward, and scored 10 goals in 33 appearances, De Bruyne was voted Germany’s young player of the year. Jurgen Klopp was keen to buy him for Borussia Dortmund, where his range of passing would have complemented a side brimming with attacking endeavour. Bayer Leverkusen also expressed an interest. Either may have appeared a more natural fit than in the set-up back at his parent club, who had just announced Mourinho’s second coming as their manager.

“I thought maybe Chelsea would let me go but then Mourinho texted me: ‘You are staying. I want you to be part of this team’, so I thought, ‘OK, great. I’m in his plans’. When I arrived for pre-season, the vibe was good.”

De Bruyne Chelsea

He travelled with the squad to southeast Asia, starting in Mourinho’s first game back in charge against the Singha All-Stars in Thailand’s capital Bangkok before injuring a knee scoring the team’s second goal in a victory over a Malaysia XI. Yet, even by then, the manager had sensed an impatience among the more youthful members of his touring party. “In this moment, almost every player has an ego and almost every player has people around them to feed their ego,” he told reporters a few days before that win in Kuala Lumpur. “Sometimes, the young boys are a bit confused. Sometimes, they think they are a bit more important than the club. Sometimes, they do just a little step forward and they think everything is done.

“When I meet all these kids, one of their main issues is: ‘Am I going to play? Do I have a chance to go to the World Cup (in 2014)? If I don’t play here enough, probably I’m going to lose a World Cup possibility, so probably, it is better for me to stay in Vitesse one more year’ – Van Ginkel. ‘Probably, it is better for me to stay in Germany one more year’ – De Bruyne. ‘Probably, it is better for me to go on loan to another Premier League club’ – Lukaku. The kids, they have expectations, motivations and, from this early age, (being with Chelsea) is a good education. They can be a very good group. The older guys here, they are a good support, good examples, work very hard, very respectful, so for these kids to be with Frank Lampard and company is also a big help.”

De Bruyne Chelsea Lampard

De Bruyne would train as normal back at Cobham, where visitors grew accustomed to seeing him stay behind with Lampard after training sessions as the pair worked on their shooting. “We had a very good midfield, a very good and strong squad, and Kevin was young,” the former Chelsea defender, Branislav Ivanovic, tells The Athletic. “He needed to practise but, from the first loan (in Bremen), you could see he was an amazing player. He was improving everything, even at Chelsea. Sometimes, he reminded me of Frank with his finishing and his passing. I think (in terms of making him what he is today) it was a good experience for him.”

He then started and impressed in the 2013-14 opening-day win over Hull City, and was also in the XI in a goalless draw away to Manchester United eight days later. But then, overnight, he found himself quietly shunted to one side with others — Oscar, Mikel John Obi, Ramires, Andre Schurrle, Lampard, Willian, Mata — offered opportunities as the new head coach scrutinised his hand. “I thought I’d played OK — not brilliant but pretty good,” recalled De Bruyne. “Then, after the fourth game (against Swindon), that was it. I was on the bench and I never really got a chance again. I didn’t get an explanation. I was just out of favour for some reason.”

De Bruyne Chelsea

He played five minutes of football in a month. Then came the cup tie in Swindon, and a chance to stake his claim.


Nathan Thompson does not need prompting when it comes to that Chelsea game. He was playing right-back for Mark Cooper’s side that evening at the County Ground and, when the team-sheet was filed prior to kick-off, he recalls glancing down the visitors’ line-up with a growing sense of dread.

Swindon had beaten local rivals Bristol City a few days earlier but would have to prise apart Champions League and Europa League winning centre-backs in David Luiz and Gary Cahill if they were to prevail again. Michael Essien lay in wait in central midfield. Willian, a recent £32 million acquisition from Anzhi Makhachkala, and Mata, voted Chelsea’s player of the year in his two previous seasons at the club, would be a threat from the flanks. Torres, a £50 million striker who had won a World Cup and two European Championships but still had a considerable point to prove, would lead the line.

Mourinho’s selected XI had cost around £180 million to assemble. In that company, their No 15 was only afforded a passing glance. The same applied to the game itself.

“We all knew Mourinho took that competition seriously and liked to put strong teams out in it, so the quality in their line-up didn’t surprise me,” says Thompson. “But it was a ridiculous team when you look at it. I mean, Essien, those centre-halves, the front three… Van Ginkel went down really early on, so they brought on Ramires, who went and scored then came off again at half-time for John Terry. John Terry!

Mata Chelsea Swindon

“I’d imagined I might be up against Mata, who hadn’t been having the best of times under Mourinho up to then and was apparently under a bit of pressure but he kept rolling inside and ran the show. That left me up against Ryan Bertrand for most of the night, playing so high up the pitch, and he was so aggressive, so sharp. It wasn’t like they completely dominated the ball — we liked to pass it around as well — but you looked at them and they were such athletes. A different specimen of player.

“They brought on Demba Ba late on (for De Bruyne, with 12 minutes left) and he’d been getting peppered at the time, a lot of stick, but he was so quick. I remember just trying to catch my breath at one point in the second half and thinking, ‘Frigging hell, the difference is brutal’. It was nuts. Ba was a player who couldn’t get in their starting team but he was so far ahead (of us).

“But De Bruyne… he wasn’t playing anything like he is now. I mean, nothing like he is now. It sounds silly to say it but he struck me as someone really lacking in confidence, someone almost playing within himself, nervous to try things. That can often be down to management. Some players flourish under some managers. Others don’t. And it was as if Mourinho was on his case. You could see it was affecting him: he just didn’t make an impact. To see what he went on and achieved is just mad but, at the time, it looked as if English football was a bit of a shock to his system.”

De Bruyne Chelsea Swindon

The focus was drawn to Mata, making a third start under Mourinho, excelling as a No 10 and then, as a coup de grace, conjuring a tackle near the byline deep into stoppage time to concede a corner and set those on the bench purring. The penny had apparently dropped that all would be expected to contribute defensively under this new regime. “There’s no such thing as a luxury player these days,” offered the assistant coach, Steve Holland, in his post-match assessment. “Jose’s made it quite clear what he wants the attacking players to do in all those positions: not just to Juan, but to Willian, Kevin, Andre, everyone. We were very pleased with Juan’s contribution.”

The coaching staff would have been just as encouraged to see Torres scoring one — the first, outside the UEFA Super Cup, by a Chelsea striker that season — and setting up Ramires for the other. David Luiz, omitted from the squad a few days previously against Fulham, spent the second half playing in midfield. De Bruyne’s display, other than that one cursory reference to “Kevin” by Holland, did not warrant a mention.

Mourinho had expected the youngster to deliver dynamism from his berth in a three behind Torres. This, after all, was a player who had been kicking his heels on the sidelines for weeks, desperate for greater involvement. The staff had anticipated him rampaging all over lower-league opposition, infiltrating Swindon’s lines and driving Chelsea forward. Impress and he would be back in the fold. Instead, there was precious little creativity or even energy. He had played 78 minutes that night and, even against players from the middle of the third tier, they had rather passed him by.

“We’d played Tottenham Hotspur in a pre-season friendly a couple of months earlier and I’d come up against Gareth Bale in what was actually his last game before he signed for Real Madrid,” adds Thompson, now 29 and still plying his trade in League One with Peterborough United. “Talk about confidence levels: he was at the other end of the spectrum to De Bruyne at the time. Bale couldn’t do anything wrong. He could just flick a switch and stampede all over you. I remember him looking as if he wasn’t fussed, then picking the ball up, a little burst of pace, and scoring with an unbelievable shot from the edge of the area.

Bale Tottenham Swindon

“It was all coming so naturally to him. He didn’t have to think about anything but you could tell with De Bruyne that he was over-thinking everything. He was nervous. Things weren’t going his way, he was unsure about how he was playing, what he was supposed to do, and that made everything harder. There was no fluency to his game at all.”

De Bruyne has subsequently conceded as much.

“I made some mistakes myself,” he said. “I was a bit naive about the way that you have to handle yourself as a Premier League footballer. What most fans don’t realise is that when you’re out of favour at a club, you don’t get nearly the same attention during training. At some clubs, it’s like you don’t exist anymore. If it happened to me now, it wouldn’t be a problem. I know enough to be able to train on my own and take care of myself.

“But when you’re 21, 22, you don’t understand what it takes. When I got that chance to play against Swindon, I wasn’t in good shape. And that was pretty much it for me.”


It would be three days before the world realised De Bruyne may have wrecked his chances at Stamford Bridge. The media corps had trooped down to Cobham later that week to listen to Mourinho preview a mouth-watering derby away at Tottenham. The talk had all been about his first head-to-head with his compatriot and former Porto and Chelsea analyst Villas-Boas, one-time friends turned foes.

The barrage of questions about his relationship with the recently-appointed Spurs manager had been so relentless that Chelsea’s head of communications felt compelled to interject at one point to move the discussion on to alternative topics.

In truth, even once the broadcast section of the press conference had concluded and the Portuguese was addressing the daily newspapers — he tended to relax slightly once the cameras were turned off — the responses were generally bitty and rather unsatisfactory.

He refused to bite on the issue of Willian, who had originally been destined for Spurs that summer before Chelsea moved late to lure him across the capital.

“I did nothing. I don’t know the story. It was not a question of persuasion. It was a question of connection. He always had the dream to play for Chelsea.”

He did not seem particularly keen to engage and, as was often the case, it became a matter of probing him with different subjects until he made it clear he had an opinion he wished to express. There was always something he was eager to air. De Bruyne did not crop up until the 20th question flung from the floor.

Did he make an impression on you in midweek and, like Mata, show that he buys into everything you want him to do?

“Not so much.”

It was the abruptness of the response that made those present take notice.

OK. You’re down on numbers. Could De Bruyne perhaps fill in for the injured Ramires in central midfield?

“Let’s see. Let’s work. But the first thing is the understanding that Bremen don’t have the same squad as Chelsea, and when you have more competition, you have to compete every game and every minute. For example, for the selection tomorrow I have to base that on the game against Swindon. If we all agree that Mata did enough to play against Tottenham, somebody has to drop out. So Kevin is out of selection.

“This is the kind of situation they all have to understand. I have to try and be honest with the players and my choices. The next time Kevin is on the pitch, he has to think he’s playing for his next appearance. At Bremen, he played every game. Here, he’s not playing every game. In Bremen, he didn’t need to prove himself so much. This is a different reality. He’s competing against very good players, so every minute he’s on the pitch, he has to work really hard.”

The implication was clear. An opportunity had been passed up and, despite declaring publicly that he was “a fighter” who would scrap to regain a place, the young Belgian found himself cast into the wilderness, especially when it came to the Premier League. He was not even in the 18-man squad at White Hart Lane that Saturday and was also omitted from the subsequent midweek trip to Steaua Bucharest of Romania in the Champions League. He trained with the club’s development squad while his senior team-mates were away, an indignity that did not go forgotten.

De Bruyne Chelsea

His was not the only frustration at the marginalisation.

De Visser, speaking to Het Laatste Nieuws in 2016, suggested he had personally taken up the issue with Mourinho. “We had some discussions. He would say, ‘Piet, I regret it too but the boy wants to leave. He doesn’t want to train under me anymore’. I told him, ‘Of course the boy wants to play — he’s ready to play’. I tried to convince him of Kevin’s qualities. But Mourinho just repeated, ‘Piet, he doesn’t want to train’, so I went to see a training session — and Kevin was the best player on the pitch.

“Look, Mourinho is a performance-focused manager who has achieved a lot in his career. He wants to work with fully-developed players. He thought Kevin needed one, maybe two more years. But Kevin was ready. And Kevin was convinced he was ready, too.”

It would be December before Mourinho offered anything close to an olive branch for the outcast, restoring De Bruyne to his match-day squad for a madcap 4-3 win away at Sunderland, having declared on the eve of the trip to Wearside that the 22-year old was “showing desire and working very hard”. By then, Spain’s Atletico Madrid had joined Wolfsburg and Leverkusen in sounding out De Koster over a possible mid-season move.

“I feel sorry for not giving him big opportunities up to now but he’s working better than ever,” said Mourinho. “He’s sad when he’s not selected or playing but he’s working professionally which, for me, was a change from the beginning. When he works the way he is, he has to have a chance. I like him as a player. I’ve learned now how to like him, also, as a kid. He’s a good kid and he’s showing he’s a good professional. Hopefully, I can give him enough time on the pitch so he decides to stay in a happy way.”

Yet, having been an unused substitute for the next match away to Stoke City, the midfielder slipped back into obscurity until summoned to Mourinho’s office at the training ground later that month. There, the head coach produced a piece of paper and, deciphering the analyst’s scrawl, rattled off the Belgian’s contributions to date — one assist, no goals, 10 recoveries of possession — before offering up the comparative numbers for Willian, Oscar, Mata and Schurrle.

Silence.

“Jose was just waiting for me to say something. ‘But some of these guys have played 15, 20 games. I’ve only played three, so it’s going to be different, no?’,” De Bruyne told The Players’ Tribune. “It was so strange. We had a bit of a conversation about me going back out on loan. Mata was also out of favour at the time, so Jose said, ‘Well, you know, if Mata leaves, then you will be the fifth choice instead of sixth’.

“I was completely honest. ‘I feel like the club doesn’t really want me here. I want to play football. I’d rather you sell me’. Jose was a bit disappointed but to be fair to him, I think he also understood that I absolutely needed to play. So the club ended up selling me and there was no big problem at all. Chelsea got more than double the price they paid for me, and I got into a much better situation at Wolfsburg.”

At the time, given the player’s reluctance to rejoin the club’s legion of loanees, the £18 million fee seemed attractive. Chelsea insisted on inserting a sell-on clause to ensure they might benefit from any future sale but there was no buy-back option. That hardly felt like a risk given the player’s toils but was perhaps their biggest error. But, at the time, most at the club had grown tired of the grumbling undercurrent of dissatisfaction that had accompanied him all season. A fresh start seemed to suit everyone.

De Bruyne City Chelsea

The blossoming of his career in the years since casts that decision in a very different light. Admittedly, Chelsea would win the title in two of the three seasons that followed, with De Bruyne subsequently pointing to that as evidence they “would not have any regrets, either, with everything that happened”. But seeing him dazzle so consistently with Manchester City provides a constant reminder of what might have been at Stamford Bridge.

As one of the members of Chelsea’s hierarchy would later admit, “everyone is implicated” in De Bruyne’s failure to make an impression at the club.

Things might have been very different had he put Swindon to the sword.

Death.

Taxes.

Journalists writing a Kevin De Bruyne-Chelsea story before every Chelsea v Man City/Man City v Chelsea match.

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55 minutes ago, MCM4PR3Z said:

From the moment De Bruyne arrived here, he was the best player of the club. He was the best player in preseason, he was MOTM in the first PL game. And then we had a sh*t first half against United. And Mourinho offered De Bruyne with the intention of never bringing him back in the team again.

Mourinho hated De Bruyne and made his biggest blunder ever. It remains one of the first things that people think about when they see Mourinho. The guy that couldn't see the talent of De Bruyne.

He wasnt. Think people tend to forget that he really kicked on at Wolfsburg for 18 months. He wasnt given a fair crack here maybe but that cup game he played against a league 1 team he was so poor. The Hull game he was good but there was more inform and better suited players to our team when he was here. Saying otherwise is daft.

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2 hours ago, OneMoSalah said:

He wasnt. Think people tend to forget that he really kicked on at Wolfsburg for 18 months. He wasnt given a fair crack here maybe but that cup game he played against a league 1 team he was so poor. The Hull game he was good but there was more inform and better suited players to our team when he was here. Saying otherwise is daft.

Yet a blind man could see his undeniable quality. He showed it at Genk, he showed it At Bremen. He was the best midfielder in Bundesliga even back then. This incredible free kick he scored today I had seen him score those for Genk already. He just got more consistent with age which was to be expected. There can be no excuses for Mourinho. 

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11 hours ago, Magic Lamps said:

Yet a blind man could see his undeniable quality. He showed it at Genk, he showed it At Bremen. He was the best midfielder in Bundesliga even back then. This incredible free kick he scored today I had seen him score those for Genk already. He just got more consistent with age which was to be expected. There can be no excuses for Mourinho. 

Definitely but it is a stretch to say that when he came from Genk or even back from Bremen he was our best player straight away which is what I was replying to. 

Mata had just come off a huge couple of seasons. Hazard was also here. There was also a great deal of hope around Willian when he signed (maybe because how he played against us the previous season and I also think because Spurs wanted him) and I think that the signing of him and the clubs persistence in bringing Schurrle that summer always meant at least 2 of the attacking midfield players would always struggle for playing time and ultimately end up leaving either on loan or permanently. It is a shame that it was Mata and De Bruyne who didnt stay as opposed to Oscar and Schurrle but at the time, the 55mn recouped was well invested considering Matic cost 21mn and Salah (who for me I think seeing what he has done now in a position we’ve really lacked a regular goalscoring player in was just as big a loss if not more - imagine him playing where Pedro did in Conte’s system for instance or Sarri’s) for 11mn.

Both obviously were hugely talented and we've seen the aftermath and heard all the quotes from Conte, several sky sports pundits and De Bruyne going on about Mourinho mentioning the running/tackling/interception stats to him in a meeting as well as whoever else has gone on about it. Those mistakes will scar Mourinho’s reputation a wee bit but still what he's done in the game in the last 20 years its hardly going to affect him hugely. I still think those moves definitely would of made them better than Mourinho would have as well. Young players haven't really been hugely common in Mourinho’s most successful teams plus his short term mindset was always going to work against the clubs idea of developing young players just like Villas-Boas’ lack of prioritising the present worked against him here too among other things. 

Plus in terms of how that season finished with Jose and then next year when we won the league next season, I dont think people really complained overly too much about missing Mata or De Bruyne either because their was always more talk of us needing a top CF (Costa), LB (Filipe Luis) and a deep lying playmaker (Cesc) to make that team work and compete for the league.

It was always said, Jose had said it himself, many might have recognised Kevin and Salah’s talent but I do believe that nobody was saying when we finished 3rd and went into the summer window that we really lacked those players especially. That squad after making those signings (Cesc, Costa, Filipe Luis, recalling Courtois), again nobody really talked about Chelsea lacking De Bruyne or Salah. 

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