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


Share this article:


France have the chance to establish a new footballing dynasty with Euro 2016 victory

The 2016 UEFA European Championship will get underway when hosts France face Romania at Stade de France on Friday.

Didier Deschamps’ men are among the hot favourites to win this summer’s title and a quick look through Les Bleus’ squad illustrates why they are fancied by so many to claim their third continental crown on home soil.

The current French crop boasts the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, Juventus’ Paul Pogba, Paris Saint-Germain’s Blaise Matuidi, Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, West Ham United’s Dimitri Payet and Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris.

Deschamps’ group looks extremely balanced on paper. Added to the fact that they have been handed a favourable draw in Group A, France have the potential to go far in their own backyard.

The 47-year-old tactician’s squad already looks formidable but when you consider that Real Madrid pair Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho, Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma, Olympique Lyonnais duo Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir, as well as OGC Nice’s Hatem Ben Arfa are all missing, the hosts could be more formidable than they already are.

The crazy thing is that Les Bleus’ well of talent does not run dry there. In fact, if anything, that is only scratching the surface.

PSG pair Alphonse Areola and Adrien Rabiot, not to mention Borussia Dortmund’s teenage sensation Ousmane Dembele, Athletic Club’s Aymeric Laporte and Lyon’s Samuel Umtiti (who is actually in Deschamps’ Euro squad), are yet to make their senior debuts for the French senior side.

The likes of Inter Milan’s Geoffrey Kondogbia and Stade Rennais’ Paul-Georges Ntep only have a few caps to their name and the under-21 side is loaded with talents capable of making the step up to senior level in the near future.

France has an opportunity with this summer’s European Championship to establish a footballing dynasty that could last for many years.

If the hosts can hoist the Henri Delaunay trophy at Stade de France next month, there is a very good chance that we could see the same thing happen in Russia at Luzhniki Stadium in 2018, in England at Wembley in 2020 and perhaps even in Qatar at Lusail Iconic Stadium in 2022.

The likes of Griezmann, Pogba, Martial and Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman all should have at least three more major international tournaments left in them after Euro 2016, arguably more for the latter trio.

With so many top talents on the fringes of Deschamps’ squad or yet to be integrated into the senior setup at all, it is easy to see Les Bleus becoming the world and European order sometime in the next few years.

Germany may well win this summer’s tournament and add the European title to their world crown but France are the most likely side to wrest it away from them in the coming years, should that happen.

What Deschamps’ team needs now is experience; the experience of playing in big international tournaments like the Euro and the experience of going on deep run to the latter stages and possibly all the way.

Once the key younger members of this group have tasted that, the seed for future success will have been sown. All that will be left to do then is for Deschamps, or a similar figure, to harvest the glory that many of these phenomenally talented players are destined for.

The FIFA under-20 World Cup success of 2013, featuring the likes of Pogba, Zouma, Areola, Umtiti, Kondogbia and Lucas Digne was a taste of what should lie ahead of many members of this emerging generation of talent.

What France need now is for some of those players to acquire the necessary experience so that the next wave of gifted footballers can be brought into the senior setup. Once that happens, once Les Bleus enjoy that initial success, they should become a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

This summer’s European Championship on home soil is the perfect opportunity to take that next step and Deschamps’ men could then realistically target World Cup success in Russia after that.

Even if ultimate success does not await the French at Stade de France in July, it surely will not elude them for much longer. One thing is for sure, the future is bright and the future is Bleu.

About the author – Jonathan Johnson

Ligue 1 and French football journalist. Covering PSG in English. Work is published regularly on @EPSNFC,@br_uk, @YahooSportUK and @beINSPORTUSA.

twitter: @Jon_LeGossip


Share this article:


Juventus have always had a top midfield throughout the ages: Pirlo, Nedved, Vidal, Zidane, Roberto Baggio are a few of the names that come to mind. However the list goes on and on. When Pirlo and Vidal left the club, in 2015, the Italian supporters were concerned about who would now be the “fuel” to keep the Vecchia Signora’s engine running smoothly.

The tackling characteristics of both Khedira and Marchisio, which made them into more defensive than attacking midfielders, forced Allegri to act fast and with accuracy. And then, right before his eyes, was an attacking playmaker who covered the whole field, gifted with a great technique and an amazing shooting ability – Paul Pogba. The kid who left Manchester United in 2012 quickly became one of the most promising players in the world.

Knowing what we know now, we are able to see how crazy it was for the Red Devils , to sell the youngster back in 2012 for a shocking £3.5 million, particularly with him now being valued at around £70 million. United aren’t the only ones guilty of letting a future star slip through their fingers. AC Milan also regret the exit of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2012, and Arsenal fans surely remember when Ibrahimović was only perceived as good enough for a trial at the club in 2000. Mistakes are very common in football. Nevertheless, Pogba is now happier than ever, and it’s a joy to watch him play and develop into one of the world’s top midfielders.

Yes, it’s true: some of his actions demonstrate that he still has a lot of psychological growing to do, but only time will give him the maturity needed. On the pitch, he is a complete player, combining a mix of technique, shooting, passing, dribbling and speed; Outside of football, he is a kid having fun and enjoying his young age. Let’s not blame him, after all you are only young once. In a few years, providing he’s able to avoid the “Balotelli path”, he will be the top midfielder in the world, joining Zidane and Baggio in the list of the Hall-of-Famers. If he’s lucky, the Ballon D’Or will also be within his grasp.

In a total of 33 matches this season, Pogba has 6 goals and  9 assists to his name, and his performances have been a delight to all the football fans. At the tender age of of just 22 years old, he’s still very young and has many years ahead of him. Juventus were the first club who welcomed him and treated him like the irreverent top player that he is, and now the question is who’s going to be the next one – everyone has acknowledged the mighty interest of both Barcelona and Real Madrid, but Pep Guardiola has been watching closely, protected by the Manchester City’s infinite richness. Who will win the race?

About the author – Luis Costa

Luis has a great passion for football and has been playing Soccer Manager for 5 years. He played semi-professional football for 13 years and is currently a regional referee in Madeira’s football association.


Share this article:


One of the latest Serbian talents to attract huge attention from Europe’s top clubs is the 19-year-old Red Star midfielder Marko Grujic.

Dubbed the new Nemanja Mati?, this youngster has seen his career take a huge step forward in the last couple of months with Red Star, who are understandably proud of their young pearl.

A product of Red Star youth academy, just like his teammate Luka Jovic Marko Grujic has this season impressed not only with his mature performances, but also with his professional on-pitch attitude and is well poised to make a name for himself in the years to come.

Better understanding of his background will offer some deeper insight in how this lad became so composed, and well-grounded player for a boy of such a delicate age.

Marko Grujic passed through all categories at Red Star Belgrade, captaining throughout his generation. The 19-year-old starlet was also a member of the Serbian golden team which won the 2015 FIFA Under 20 World Cup in New Zealand, and despite his young age this Red Star midfielder has already gained plenty of experience.

His club, the fallen giants of the Serbian football, Red Star Belgrade have in recent years dealt with a lot of problems, financial difficulties most of all. The only Serbian club ever to be crowned the European champions have struggled on and off pitch and were being forced to sell their young pearls in order to survive. Such practice has become common in recent history of the Serbian club football in general.

However, Marko Grujic is proving to be the exception to this rule.

Not that he wasn’t close to becoming yet another Serbian jewel to be prematurely left to roam the European waters. It was in 2014 when he was loaned to Kolubara to play for the Serbian minnows on dual ownership with Red Star that he was one step away from making his way out of Red Star.

Grujic was quick to confirm his huge potential and announce himself as the next big thing. Despite his obvious footballing qualities, he seemed surplus to the club’s requirements and was being touted for a €1.5 million transfer to Hamburger SV.

However, having realized the potential which was at their hands, the management of the Belgrade greatest have seemingly taken a turn in their business dealings, deciding to hold on to their most prized possession. Grujic signed a long-term contract that is to keep him in Belgrade until 2018.

Red Star midfielder bloomed this year under the guidance of the new manager, Miodrag Božovi?, former Amkar Perm, FC Moscow, Dynamo Moscow, Rostov and Lokomotiv Moscow boss who was brought in with a sole purpose of returning the Champions League football to Belgrade.

Božovi? gave this boy a chance to shine, allowed him to bloom and develop into a versatile footballer who came under the limelight this term, attracting attention from Europe’s top clubs.

Naturally a deep-lying midfielder, Marko Grujic was originally being deployed mainly as defence-oriented footballer anchoring in the middle of the pitch, which served well enough for all the comparisons with Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Mati?.

Miodrag Božovi? has pushed his player forward in recent weeks, allowing him to demonstrate his attacking potential. Playing just behind the strikers Grujic was allowed to exhibit his creativity, vision and incredible shooting power. Grujic has so far bagged four goals for Red Star and has a couple of assists written next to his name.

He is very strong on ball, technically skilled and possesses great composure and pace. Do not be deceived by his delicate physique, this ‘new Mati?’ has been transformed into the ‘Serbian Paul Pogba’ – a brave player, willing to take responsibility and solve games with his moments of pure brilliance.

Grujic himself commented on the comparisons with the two renowned, world-class midfielders.

Nemanja Mati? makes regular contact with his young compatriot and has even complimented Grujic on his most recent long-distance howler against FK Rad earlier in October. As for Pogba, the 19-year-old dreams of playing together with the French sensation one day, or even as his successor in Juventus, which is the club he holds dear to his heart.

Not that he will not get the chance to play with his idols should he continue to gallop through his development.

Grujic’s most recent performances have alerted Chelsea, Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain who are all keeping close tabs on the Red Star prodigy. Italian minnows Sassuolo have also joined the pack, but will have slim chances of beating the likes of aforementioned household clubs to Grujic’s signature.

Aware of the attention, Red Star are demonstrating determination to hold on to their player.

General manager Zvezdan Terzi? describes Grujic as one of the key players in the team, who has to stay in Belgrade and lead the team to the UEFA Champions League. Terzi? expects a lot of pressure during the winter transfer window, but has made his club’s will public – Grujic will not be sold, at any price.

To conclude, this is where all the comparisons with Pogba also take another perspective since, just like Juventus, Red Star will have plenty of problems trying to keep their gem past January.

About the author – Miloš Markovic

Sports journalist from Serbia, Editor in Cheif at Sportske.net and contributor to FutbolgradLive. Worked with Inforstrada and FIFA covering Serbia’s international games during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

twitter: @milosemarkovicu


Share this article: