Kevin De Bruyne For PFA Player Of The Year
Those shouting at your screen after reading the title because we are only four games into the season, because you don't like Kevin De Bruyne or for a number of other reasons, I get it. Believe me, I do, I’ve been there. Just hear me out.
Kevin De Bruyne is off to a flying start to this new campaign, both for club and country. With Manchester City, he has already assisted five goals and scored one more in four matches. For Belgium, he just put on a masterclass as he picked apart Scotland, assisting three and scoring the fourth and final goal of the day. With this kind of start, it is hard not to think about who is going to be in the final conversation for PFA Player of the Year.
The past two years it has stayed in Merseyside, with Mohamed Salah winning the award in 2017-18 and Virgil Van Dijk this past season. During the 2017-18 season, the talk constantly swayed from the Belgian at City to the Egyptian at Liverpool. De Bruyne would have two assists that you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams, then Salah would go on to score some stunning solo goal; it just never ended. While City ran away with the league, the race for PFA Player of the Year was a very intriguing one. Ultimately, it was Salah and his goals that won him the prize, finishing with 32 league goals and ten assists.
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De Bruyne himself even voted for Salah and graciously accepted the defeat, with eyes on the real prize of the season, the Premier League title. This past campaign, Virgil Van Dijk got his hands on the award, and I don’t think too many people had issues with that. He completely changed the narrative around Liverpool’s defense, from leaky and susceptible to near fortified. He led Liverpool to a point tally that all but two other years in the Premier League would have won it the league. To top it all off, he helped the Reds lift the Champions League trophy, making sure there was some sort of silverware come the end of the season.
This year it will surely be another fun race to the title, along with this individual award. I imagine that Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Harry Kane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and possibly even some surprise inclusions will be part of the conversation at some point during the year, but I’m going to put it out there that De Bruyne looks set to outlast it all and get his hands on the prize that evaded him two seasons ago after 16 assists and eight goals.
Looking at the facts, he is already just shy of one-third of the way to that assist tally after four games. That leaves 34 more games for him to mark 11 assists. Knowing De Bruyne, that is very possible. I’m well aware that he will not continue at the pace he has started the season, because nobody ever does. That leaves an assist roughly every three games, like I said, very doable for a team that scores goals for fun and a team full of goal scorers. He has Sergio Agüero, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and maybe Leroy Sane all as possible options to get those 11 assists by the end of the season.
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It would be surprising if he doesn’t get to that 16-assist tally or even surpass it. Goals will be the big challenge for De Bruyne, as he typically likes to hand them out rather than take them himself. But with Rodri behind him with younger legs, the Belgian might be able to go forward a bit more and find the net (hopefully). I think it’s fair to say people love a goal more than an assist, myself included. In the end, that goal is what changes the score line; it’s a visible change on the TV or scoreboard at the game that we notice. So goals could decide his ability to win it this year and those of the competition.
The one big caveat to all of this is that he maintains his fitness levels and doesn’t spend too many games on the sidelines or in the stands. That is a big “if,” because he was out for around half of City’s games last season and that will have to change. If he can stay healthy this season, I think he has a good chance of securing PFA Player Of The Year. Obviously, along with all this, City will have to maintain a high level of play throughout the year and likely need to find its way to the semifinals of the Champions League, as I see Liverpool going right to the end in the Premier League again and going deep into the UCL. This will help keep Kevin De Bruyne in contention for the PFA award.
However, this might not be your opinion, and that’s the beauty of the game; we see it in different ways. The most obvious, we all have our favorite players, most of which we’ll back until the end of time. But I’ll put my neck on the line and make the early claim that De Bruyne will win the award this season. Salah had his year and it will be hard to reach those standards again, I think Mané will have to share too many goals with his other attacking partners and I don’t see Kane winning it when it comes down to it, I just don’t. The fact that De Bruyne feeds so many of the goals that City scores and his importance in controlling the game will allow him to see out the competition from within his own club.
For those who are still internally screaming in rage of this piece, thank you for getting this far and letting me make a case. You don’t have to agree with this claim, many won't, but four games into the season seems as good a time as ever to start making these fun end-of-season predictions, so here we are.