With nearly a third of the season complete, there have been two major plots to the Bundesliga campaign. At the top of the table,, we have been left asking whether any side can match Bayern Munich, who after 11 games, are sitting pretty and remain undefeated. The other major story has come at the other end of the table, with Borussia Dortmund’s alarming slip down the ladder seeing them currently in 15th place.
Amidst these two major stories though, there has been all the entertainment people have come to expect from the Bundesliga, with many subplots forming. One of these has been the form of VfL Wolfsburg, who, after a 2-0 victory over Hamburger SV, took second spot in the league, closing the gap between themselves and Bayern to four points. It was a sixth straight win for the Wolves who are looking good to improve on last season’s fifth place finish.
The star behind their current run of form is 23-year-old Belgian international Kevin De Bruyne, who, despite his young age, is rapidly becoming one of the major talents in Germany. It is therefore quite surprising that De Bruyne has not been generating a lot of fanfare or column inches, although it is not the first time in his career that he has been left as somewhat of an afterthought. Such a comment refers to the Belgian’s time at Chelsea.
Having impressed for Genk, the Blues parted with around £7 million to bring De Bruyne to Stamford Bridge, although as part of the deal he was immediately loaned back to the Belgian side. This set the tone for an incredibly frustrating couple of years for a player who had already been marked as a major star in the making. De Bruyne found himself with little chance to impress Roberto Di Matteo and was shortly thereafter loaned out again, this time to Werder Bremen. It was at the German outfit where the midfielder’s love affair with the Bundesliga began. In what was a largely disappointing campaign for Bremen, De Bruyne impressed on an individual level scoring ten times in 33 games, while also catching eyes with his general all-around play.
De Bruyne’s season away in Germany was enough to impress incoming Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho who brought him back to play a full role in preseason ahead of the 2013-14 campaign. On paper, the Belgian was exactly the sort of player Mourinho relishes. Quick and aggressive going forward, but not afraid to track back at the same time, De Bruyne has the sort of work ethic much appreciated by the Portuguese manager. Yet, after a brief foray into the first team at Chelsea, De Bruyne found himself cast aside once again by the club. There were those Chelsea fans who, convinced they had a quality player on their hands, clamoured for him to be involved on a more regular basis, but by the January transfer window of 2014 it was clear that his future lay elsewhere. The cynic would suggest that De Bruyne never really had a great chance of making the grade at Chelsea and was instead seen as a player who could generate a massive profit and help Chelsea comply with the Financial Fair Play rules.
Whatever the reasoning behind the Belgian’s exit, Chelsea’s loss was Wolfsburg’s gain, as they beat a host of other Bundesliga clubs to secure the signature of a player who had already proved his ability in Germany. Signing in January, the midfielder was able to show flashes of his ability, scoring three and assisting six in his 16 games between then and the end of the season. De Bruyne then went to Brazil where he was one of the best performers in a strangely subdued Belgian performance at the World Cup. In the tournament, De Bruyne posed more of a threat than most other Belgians, including his former Chelsea teammate Eden Hazard, and added to his international caps and goals, currently standing at seven goals in 26 appearances for the national team.
Since the beginning of this campaign his form has been electric and De Bruyne has exceeded expectations. His direct approach has reaped the rewards and driven Wolfsburg both to domestic and European successes, with De Bruyne netting three times in the Europa League. In his last two domestic games, the 23-year-old has laid on a brace of assists in both matches and is really beginning to turn heads, something that is sure to generate the fervour his current form warrants.
Manager Dieter Hecking recently praised De Bruyne’s ability to play in several different positions, something that is clear when watching him. While normally operating from a central position, the Belgian is frequently seen coming deep to collect a ball before running out wide and taking men on in a winger role. This has made him an invaluable asset to The Wolves, as he is an individual effectively playing two different roles. His creativity and conducting of the Wolfsburg attack has seen him lay on nine assists, the most in the Bundesliga. Only Cesc Fabregas has been able to match him across the four major European leagues.
While, at £18 million, De Bruyne can hardly be described as a ‘bargain,’ his value will rocket should he maintain his current level of play. Given the story of his career so far, it is hard to believe that he is still just 23, and his talent at such a young age should generate even more excitement. If De Bruyne can continue at the same level and retain his work ethic, then he could become one of the standout players not just in the league, but in Europe as a whole. Such a possibility will be sure to spawn interest from other European sides, but for the moment De Bruyne seems happy at Wolfsburg, a side who have given him a platform to display his abilities.
The time has come to talk about Kevin.
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