Where does Chelsea’s Kevin De Bruyne go from here?
Kevin De Bruyne’s pitch time at Chelsea has regularly been diminishing and come January it may be time for him to put his own personal agenda first and branch out from the club, either temporarily or permanently.
It’s no dig at a Chelsea side still struggling to find their best team under returning manager Jose Mourinho. They have to accommodate the likes of his national compatriot Eden Hazard, as well as Juan Mata and Oscar, so there is no surprise that opportunities for De Bruyne have been scarce and you would imagine that when Mourinho does settle on his preferred starting eleven, there will still be no room for the tricky winger.
On its own, this should provide no problem; De Bruyne is 22-years-old and despite a good season with Werder Bremen on loan last year, he does not have a lot of pedigree behind him that dictates he should be starting for one of the best teams in Europe. But this is not a regular season. With a World Cup looming large at the end, Belgium have already booked their flights and have their passports ready to be stamped. So the necessity for De Bruyne – a likely main member of the national team – to be playing regular first team football at a high level is paramount.
Belgium are rightly one of the hot topics for the biggest competition in the world. They qualified with relative ease, no real surprise given their weak group and their own strong team, but it was the simplicity with which they topped the group that really made people sit up and take notice. A 2-0 defeat in an international friendly – and that’s all it was – to Colombia was a minor setback but the side will remain one of the countries under the microscope when the tournament kicks off in Brazil.
Whether that team will be doing it with Kevin De Bruyne in the side remains to be seen. National team manager Marc Wilmots has already voiced his concerns over De Bruyne’s playing time and more or less tried to manufacture a move to his own former club Schalke 04 for him. Chelsea fans will loathe to see another manager telling one of their players what to do and literally where to go, but from De Bruyne’s point of view, Wilmots’ interest in him means he is surely seen as an integral part of the national team come the summer.
As well as Wilmots, now Eden Hazard, De Bruyne’s teammate at Chelsea, is echoing the sentiments by suggesting that if De Bruyne is not playing then he should move somewhere where playing time will be possible. Speaking to Belgium’s Sporza Sportweekend, Hazard said ‘If we want to get the best from Kevin… it is best that he leaves‘ but he was keen to point out that De Bruyne is responsible for his own decisions and they could not be made for him by Wilmots or himself.
That De Bruyne needs to leave in some form come January is abundantly clear. Belgium are one of the top ranked teams in the world now and it would be unseemly to be relying on a player who is not playing regularly at a high level; especially when so many talented players who are playing and succeeding at a consistently high level are waiting in the wings to pounce.
So where does Kevin De Bruyne go? There seems to be a real interest in Belgian players plying their trade in the Bundesliga of Germany, probably because the style of league lends itself to the style the Belgian players have been brought up with. Not only that but over recent years, the German league has established itself as one of the strongest leagues in the world with the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund not just showing success on a domestic level but also on a wider European scale.
Schalke 04 would be a nice fit for De Bruyne, and I wouldn’t rule out a return to Werder Bremen where he has already spent a successful loan spell before. The most enjoyable aspect of the Bundesliga is the unpredictability of the league outside the top two teams. Every team will be expecting to stay up or push for Europe depending on their league position and the inclusion of Kevin De Bruyne at any of these clubs would be a more than adequate inclusion. If De Bruyne can enjoy a successful second half to the season, regardless of where it is in the world, then he will almost definitely assure himself a starting berth at the World Cup.
If he doesn’t, well he’s only 22 and you have to figure that Belgium will be appearing at more World Cups in the future than they have in recent years.