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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With all 32 teams in the tournament having already played three times, the Champions League group stage enters its second half this week. All of Europe’s major sides are in action – from Barcelona to Bayern Munich, Manchester United to Real Madrid – but it is some of the continent’s second-tier outfits who could be most worth watching.

Indeed, Wolfsburg, Zenit St Petersburg and Porto are among the teams sitting pretty at the top of their respective groups at the midway point, with all three sides attempting to either qualify with two matches to spare or take a big step in that direction this midweek.

A win for Wolfsburg against PSV Eindhoven would be their third of the campaign and put them at least four points clear of third place. Group B’s German representatives lost key players in Kevin De Bruyne and Ivan Perisic in the summer, but have recovered well both domestically and in the Champions League.

Marquee signing Julian Draxler has been vital for last season’s Bundesliga runners-up, with Ricardo Rodriguez, Daniel Caliguiri, Max Kruse, Naldo and Luiz Gustavo also impressing. While a trip to the Netherlands to face PSV will not be easy, Wolfsburg will be confident of their chances of picking up another three points on Tuesday.

Zenit St Petersburg will also be eyeing another triumph when they travel to Lyon. Three wins from three means Andre Villas-Boas’ charges are the only team in this year’s edition of Europe’s foremost continental club competition with maximum points; overcoming Lyon would guarantee their spot in the round of 16, though a point would be enough if Valencia defeat Gent.

Zenit have had a mixed bag when it comes to getting out of their group in recent years: the Russians advanced in 2011/12 and 2013/14 but were knocked out at the first hurdle in 2012/13 and last term. With Villas-Boas already having announced he will step aside at the end of the current campaign, the former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur boss will be desperate to lead Zenit into their first ever quarter-final – something that, theoretically, would be more achievable were they to finish top of Group H.

Benfica made the last eight as recently as 2011/12, when they were eliminated by eventual winners Chelsea. A positive start – Rui Vitoria’s men were beaten by Galatasaray last time out but had previously  defeated Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon and won at home to Astana – in this season’s tournament has lifted the 34-time Portuguese champions to the summit of Group C.

Nico Gaitan has been one of the standout performers in the competition so far, with the winger netting three goals in Benfica’s first three encounters. The Primeira Liga side take on Galatasaray at the Estadio da Luz on Tuesday knowing that a victory would all but secure their passage into the knockout round.

While the quality of football on display in the latter stages is arguably higher than anything else in history, the Champions League has become rather predictable over the last few years: Chelsea are the only side to have broken the Bayern Munich-Barcelona-Real Madrid oligopoly since 2010, and even that success had a fair amount of good fortune to it.

The group stage of the current campaign has been enjoyable so far, though, with the likes of Wolfsburg, Zenit and Benfica impressing in the first three matches. No member of the trio will win the tournamentindeed, it would be a huge shock if they even made it to the last four – but they have plenty to be pleased about in their showings up to now.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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