De Bruyne brings the goals as Belgium rise

ELITE TALENT: While City struggled in the Premier League during de Bruyne's absence, Belgium hope he can boost their chances at Euro 2016.


    May 24, 2016

    De Bruyne brings the goals as Belgium rise


    KEVIN de Bruyne's rise to become one of the world's best attacking midfielders mirrors that of a Belgium team who surged to the top of the global rankings last year.

    He struck a team-leading five goals - along with Eden Hazard - to fire Belgium to the country's first European Championships finals since co-hosting the 2000 tournament.

    But the ginger-haired midfielder's progression in the two years since has elevated him into an elite talent that persuaded Manchester City to shell out a club-record £54 million (S$108.2 million) to sign him from Wolfsburg.

    However, de Bruyne's road to stardom has not come without the odd bump in the road since he broke into the professional ranks with Genk as a 17-year-old.

    His performances in the club's 2010-11 Belgian title-winning season caught the eye of Chelsea, who paid £6.7 million to bring him to London, treading a similar path to international team-mates Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois.

    He spent a prosperous 2012-13 season on loan with Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. But his joy was cut short after a miserable six months back at Stamford Bridge making just nine appearances under Jose Mourinho.

    What was Chelsea's loss became City's gain, albeit at an exorbitant cost. But de Bruyne has taken great strides to repay the investment.

    He scored in both legs of the Champions League quarter-finals against Paris Saint-Germain as City reached the last four of Europe's premier club competition for the first time.

    While Hazard toiled at Chelsea, de Bruyne emerged from his international team-mate's shadow. His absence was keenly felt as City's Premier League title challenge fell apart while he was sidelined by injury for two months.

    But that break could prove a blessing in disguise and Belgium will hope a refreshed de Bruyne can fire them to new heights at Euro 2016 and back up the country's billing as one of the world's top sides.