Kevin De Bruyne was Manchester City’s hero in their Champions League quarter-final win against Paris St-Germain, his two goals over both legs helping them reach their first ever semi-final in the competition, sinking a PSG side that have looked so impressive all season.
Just how important has De Bruyne’s return from injury been for a City side whose season was faltering without him?
Having scored 15 goals and provided 9 assists in all competitions during a blistering start to his City career, De Bruyne’s knee injury sustained at the end of January was a massive blow to City’s season.
In the two months De Bruyne spent on the sidelines, City won only four of 12 games played in all competitions. This poor run of form saw their title bid disintegrate, although City’s place in next seasons Champions League now looks secure.
City also crashed out of the FA Cup during this period, with a second-sting side being thumped 5-1 by Chelsea.
However, despite their floundering title bid, City did overcome Liverpool on penalties to win the League Cup, earning Manuel Pellegrini’s third trophy as manager.
Most importantly, City eased past Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League round of 16, setting the stage for De Bruyne’s goals to carry them into a first semi-final against Real Madrid.
Since his return against Bournemouth at the beginning of April, De Bruyne has been in fine fettle. His volley against Bournemouth, 12 minutes after coming on, signalled his return emphatically.
It was however his goal in the second-leg against PSG which has rubber-stamped his significance to City’s side and season.
With fellow key man Sergio Aguero having uncharacteristically missed a penalty early on, PSG were pressing hard for the goal they needed to reach the semis.
Joe Hart was forced into making three brilliant saves to keep City in the tie, and it looked like the home side might need a goal to seal their progress.
That goal was to come from the boot of the brilliant young Belgian, receiving the ball on the edge of the box before taking a touch and firing a precise, low curler into the bottom corner.
His latest goal-scoring exploits now mean that De Bruyne has been involved in 24 goals for City this season, second only to Aguero. With De Bruyne having missed 10 weeks of the season through injury, these stats make for even more impressive reading.
This is merely a continuation of his impressive form for Wolfsburg, having provided 35 assists in 73 domestic matches. Only one player – West Ham’s Dimitri Payet – created more chances than De Bruyne’s 112 last season.
Few would bet against the 24-year-old developing into an increasingly important figure under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, perhaps replacing David Silva as City’s creative fulcrum.
But first, City must hope that their young, talented Belgian avoids a repeat of his injury woes and continues this vein of form into the semi-final against Real Madrid.
Image courtesy of Manchester City, via YouTube with thanks