In the space of three years, Kevin de Bruyne swapped London for Manchester, via Germany. Brought to Chelsea under André Villas-Boas, it was Jose Mourinho who deemed him not good enough to play in the Premier League after a loan spell at Werder Bremen which was soon followed by a permanent move to Wolfsburg.

Not for the first time the Portuguese manager has been proved wrong (Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata) as in 2015, Manchester City shelled out £55 million for De Bruyne, which has seen him go from strength to strength to make him one of the world’s most complete midfielders. Oh how Mourinho could do with him at their neighbours, Manchester United.

But why has De Bruyne made an instant impact in a Manchester City in comparison to summer signing Paul Pogba, who returned to Manchester United in a record breaking deal.

Signing for Chelsea at the tender age of 20, De Bruyne featured just nine games for the London club in his career. But with a combined 107 games in Germany for Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg, the dynamic midfielder scored 30 and assisted 53.

Establishing his game at Wolfsburg under the tutelage of Dieter Hecking, De Bruyne made a name for himself which saw equal the Bundesliga record for the most assists in one season, 20 – which was previous held by Zvjezdan Misimovic in 2009.

Considering Manchester United already had Pogba on their books – albeit as a 16-year-old – to pay so much to bring him back is quite staggering. Granted, he wanted first team football and to be paid a respected wage – of which he wasn’t – which saw him move on to Juventus, whom he helped to four Serie A titles in a row.

Under the watchful eye of Antonio Conte, Pogba slowly improved in a midfield which included Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal. In the end, the now France international knew that he had to improve on his discipline and work his way up to the top – something that he did so under new coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Once Pirlo and Vidal left the club, it was Pogba’s role be the driving force of Juventus – so much so that he was given the famous number 10 jersey, once donned by Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini.

The £89m that Ed Woodward & Co. forked out to bring Pogba back to Old Trafford, is almost double that Manchester City paid to bring in Wolfsburg midfielder De Bruyne to the Etihad. Instead, should the Red Devils should have secured a deal to sign De Bruyne from Wolfsburg when the opportunity arose?

During his time at Chelsea, Mourinho once labelled De Bruyne as “an upset kid” after he moaned about not getting a move away from the London club.

Despite his earlier (than planned) exit from Chelsea under Mourinho, the Belgium international has no hard feelings towards his old manager. Although, he did tell FourFourTwo that he needed to move on if he was to progress his career, as he did.

“I’ve no idea and I don’t care [why I never won over Mourinho]. I waited four months, then I said to myself that wanted to play football every week,” he told FourFourTwo.

“I couldn’t get the game time I wanted, so leaving was the obvious choice. I wanted to start a new chapter – not be loaned out and come back to the exact same situation. It was a really smart move on my part. But of all the choices I have made in my career, I don’t regret one of them – even going to Chelsea. It didn’t work out. I wanted to play football; I didn’t; so I left.”

There’s clearly no bitterness between the two, but if De Bruyne hadn’t departed Chelsea, would he be half the player he is today? Many suggest that the Belgian wouldn’t even be named in the same bracket as Pogba.

But, just who got the better deal? Both are modern day examples of what clubs want in a complete midfielder; athletic, technical, intelligent and decisive. Both can score goals and assist others, but why doesn’t De Bruyne get the praise he duly deserves?

To put into context the transfer fees involved, the £55m that Manchester City forked out on De Bruyne was three times that of which Chelsea sold him to Wolfsburg for in January 2014 – his performances for Pep Guardiola this season makes the fee paid for him make sense, unlike Pogba’s – which has seen him slowly start to gel with his new teammates at Old Trafford.

At Wolfsburg, he became such a key ingredient that the team was built around him. He was in Germany, where he was wanted and where he had a team built round him. Now, at Manchester City, De Bruyne is starting to excel, whilst the rivalry with Pogba will certainly be one to keep an eye on.

Now that both De Bruyne and Pogba are back plying their trade in the Premier League, they’re always going to be comparisons drawn. Manchester United vs Manchester City, Jose Mourinho vs Pep Guardiola, Paul Pogba vs Kevin de Bruyne.

The debate over who got the better deal will be a never ending one, but at the minute, it’s definitely the £55m that Manchester City paid for De Bruyne.

About the author – Daniel Pinder

Daniel is a Yorkshire based sports journalist that specialises in German football. Having fallen in love with the country during the 2006 World Cup thanks to the trio of Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose and Bastian Schweinsteiger, he has visited the country six times in the past two seasons to watch Cologne. Daniel has also had work published on FourFourTwo, Deutsche Welle, Goal and Gazetta Worlds, whilst he aims to bring news and analysis from Germany to an English audience.

Twitter: @DanielJPinder


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Manchester United have a long and proud tradition of developing young prodigies into first-team stars.

From the Busby Babes of the 1950s which included the likes of Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards, to Fergie’s Fledglings in the ‘90s — made up of club legends Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Neville Brothers – right through to today’s homegrown star of Old Trafford, Marcus Rashford.

In fact, there has been a youth team graduate included in every single one of United’s matchday squads since October 1937, a record which is a badge of honour for both the club and its supporters.

But last season, the Red Devils’ youth set up came in for some criticism. With the under-18s side enduring dreadful run of form which eventually saw coach Paul McGuinness lose his job, it was suggested that the club had not paid proper attention to their academy in recent years.

Some observers noted that while United were chasing big-money signings for the senior squad, the academy had been forgotten about and had fallen behind the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea in terms of both recruitment and facilities.

The twenty-time champions of England seem to have set about addressing those concerns, though. Former United midfielder Nicky Butt has been appointed to oversee the club’s youth development system, and top youngsters are once again being recruited.

Here are three stars of the United academy worth keeping an eye on.

Angel Gomes

He may have only turned 16 at the end of August, but Angel Gomes has already got plenty of people excited in and around Old Trafford.

The diminutive attacking midfielder has drawn comparisons to none other than Barcelona superstar and five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi. With his low centre of gravity, phenomenal dribbling skills and eye for a killer pass, it’s easy to see how Gomes has been likened to the legendary Argentinian.

The London-born youngster is already an England international at youth level, and has made the step up to the under-18s side at United this season, although he made his debut at that level as a 14-year-old.

The son of a Portuguese journeyman footballer, Gomes was signed by United as a 13-year-old and, due to his immense talent, has consistently been played at higher age groups.

Earlier this season, in the week of his 16th birthday, Gomes came off the bench to bag a hat-trick against Everton’s under-18s and captained the England under-17 team.

He is able to play on either flank or centrally as a striker, but Gomes’s talents best suit the number 10 role, where his dribbling and passing can wreak havoc on opposing defences, while his eye for goal will see him finding the net regularly.

“We’ve got some unbelievable players,” Nicky Butt said recently. “Angel Gomes is a young talented player we’ve massive hopes for.”

Tahith Chong

United snatched 16-year-old Dutch winger Tahith Chong from Feyenoord in the summer, and the youngster has already shown signs of the player he could become for the Red Devils.

A throwback to the era of traditional wingers, the wild-haired Chong loves nothing more than to beat his opposing full-back around the outside and look to pick out a team-mate. With a left foot that is surprisingly cultured for one so young, the Curacao-born Netherlands under-17 international is able to shoot and cross accurately and effectively.

It’s still early days for Chong within the United academy, but his skill-set would thrill the Old Trafford faithful if and when he is able to represent the senior side. United fans have been yearning for the kind of wing-play upon which Sir Alex Ferguson’s great sides were built, with Giggs, Andrei Kanchelskis and Lee Sharpe flying down the flanks. Chong could be the man to bring that back.

Indy Boonen

Belgian youngster Indy Boonen signed a three-year deal with United in 2015, and has wowed those who’ve seen him play with his YouTube friendly repertoire of tricks.

The 17-year-old has a wand of a left foot, and has produced some exceptional assists while playing for the academy teams, which have been compiled into highlight videos online.

Capable of playing on the left of midfield, Boonen will most likely find a central attacking role being the position he develops in.

Boonen’s father, Jacky, played professionally in Belgium, but is under no illusion as to where the talent lies in the family: “I used to play for Lierse, Lokeren and Beveren but my son is a much bigger talent.”

Last season, only Marcus Rashford outscored Boonen for the under-18s, and this term he has continued to impress. In the same game against the Everton academy in which Gomes scored a treble, the Belgian teenager produced a jaw dropping assist.

After a run from outside the box, Boonen’s shot was saved by the Toffees’ goalkeeper. But without breaking stride, he back-heeled the dropping ball past a defender before rounding the goalkeeper and squaring unselfishly.

Along with Chong, Boonen was recently named in The Guardian’s Next Generation list of the 60 best players born in 1999.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and natioal print publications.

Twitter:  @RyanBaldiEFB


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