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Watch out Europe: Kevin de Bruyne has a Champions League point to prove!



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In the latest edition of his City Xtra column, Amos Murphy asks whether Kevin De Bruyne is playing with a point to prove in Europe.

Is there a scarier prospect in world football than an in-form Kevin De Bruyne? The answer is yeah… Kevin De Bruyne when he’s got a point to prove. 

We’re less than a year removed from De Bruyne being hauled off midway through Manchester City’s Champions League final clash against Inter Milan. The teary Belgian had to be consoled by teammate Erling Haaland as he trudged off the Ataturk Stadium pitch, after yet another Champions League final injury. 

Just two years earlier, De Bruyne was once again unable to complete the Champions League final, having been injured by at-the-time Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger.

Of course, unlike 2021, City would get their hands on the Champions League in Istanbul, but for De Bruyne, the triumph would’ve no doubt been tinged by a touch of personal disappointment. 

The midfielder had been front and centre of some of City’s greatest Champions League moments in the past, but for one reason or another, had been let down by his teammates in the key moments.

That’s where De Bruyne’s now infamous phrase ‘Different year, same stuff’ spawned from, after City crashed out of the Champions League in familiar fashion against Olympique Lyonnais in 2020. 

During the 2022/23 campaign alone, De Bruyne had been instrumental for City too. Above all else, his goal away to Real Madrid when City’s backs were against the wall to ensure the Blues escaped the Spanish capital with something to show for their efforts, is one of the defining moments of De Bruyne’s City career so far. 

But, for De Bruyne, who had played such a key role in City’s Champions League journey before the 2023 success, to have been missing at the full-time whistle in Istanbul felt a little strange. 

That’s why, despite De Bruyne being absent for a chunk of the current campaign through injury, it feels like City’s midfield magician is a man on a mission this season. 

It isn’t just the longer locks and new hairstyle which is making De Bruyne appear fresher this time around. The ex-Chelsea man has spoken about how his enforced break from football allowed him to press the reset button on life. 

“During rehab, I had a very normal life,” De Bruyne told Man City’s official website upon his return to the side, “We went on holiday in October, normally not possible. That was cool. I was able to experience different moments with the children too.”

It’s worked a treat as well. Since returning from his time in the treatment room, De Bruyne’s nine appearances have rendered two goals and seven assists – an average of one goal contribution every 40 minutes he’s been on the pitch. 

And even though De Bruyne has already won it all in football – including the Champions League – there is an underlying feeling that the Belgian still has a small point to prove on Europe’s biggest stage. 

After two DNFs in his only Champions League final appearances to date, perhaps the only thing left for De Bruyne to do is not only take City to the finale, but win the trophy on his own accord. 

Granted, it won’t be easy. Plenty of tough tests, including during the second leg against FC Copenhagen, await for City in this year’s competition. 

But given the start he’s made since returning from injury, it’s easy to picture the 32-year-old’s performances dragging City to yet another Champions League triumph, this time with Kevin De Bruyne delivering the finishing touch at Wembley Stadium in early June.