Tuesday 16 October 2018

De Bruyne can claim Ballon d'Or - Guardiola

Kevin De Bruyne gets the better of Ben Chilwell to set up yet another chance for Manchester City. Photo: Getty Images
Kevin De Bruyne gets the better of Ben Chilwell to set up yet another chance for Manchester City. Photo: Getty Images

Timothy Abraham

An impish Kevin De Bruyne cheekily snatched the match ball off Sergio Aguero at the conclusion of another emphatic Manchester City victory but he need not worry if it is individual recognition he craves.

Should the Belgium midfielder's form continue in this vein, Pep Guardiola believes the Ballon d'Or might provide a more fitting acknowledgement of his performances this season.

Sergio Aguero chips the ball over Kasper Schmeichel to score Manchester City’s fourth goal at the Edihad Stadium. Photo: Getty Images
Sergio Aguero chips the ball over Kasper Schmeichel to score Manchester City’s fourth goal at the Edihad Stadium. Photo: Getty Images

Against Leicester, Aguero's lethal finishing was instinctive and ruthless. The striker mixed precision and power with his four goals in a 5-1 rout.

Almost invariably, it was Aguero who took the limelight, the plaudits and, subsequently, the match ball when De Bruyne returned it following his moment of mischief.

In a different manner, though, De Bruyne's display was arguably more eye-catching than Aguero's - so much more than just a hat-trick of assists which took his total to 14 in this Premier League campaign.

Every week, De Bruyne is given a fresh canvas and paints a football masterpiece more spectacular than the one before; vision, technique and creativity with each brushstroke.

It has put him on a course for a place alongside the world's elite - Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Since 2008, the Ballon d'Or award has been a battle between Messi and Ronaldo, each of them winning it five times apiece.

Almost inevitably in the blows traded by the respective talisman of Barcelona and Real Madrid have been the sheer weight of goals; it is those moments on highlights reels that will have captured the eye of the 173 journalists from around the world who vote.

But Guardiola thinks that, if De Bruyne can spearhead the bid for European, as well as domestic, glory then world football's top individual award is within reach.

"No doubt," Guardiola said. "He is not one game like this. It's the whole season - every three days, playing that way.

"He knows, and everyone knows, to be there with that award you have to win titles. Especially one - the Champions League of course."

That mission resumes tomorrow with City's trip to Basel for their last-16 tie.

Satisfying

At 26, and with Ronaldo now 32 and Messi 30, De Bruyne has time on his side, but it would be more satisfying to beat them to the Ballon d'Or while they are still in their relative pomp.

With the choirboy looks and understated nature, perhaps De Bruyne might not be sexy enough, and typically he preferred to focus on City's collective efforts when asked about the accolade.

"I do everything to win titles with the team, what happens after is an extra," he said.

"I am very pleased with the way everything is going. I am playing this way because the team is playing this way. It makes it easier for me, easier for them. At the end, if you get an individual honour, it is beautiful."

No wonder Riyad Mahrez was desperate to join City. Another win, another avalanche of goals, their lead at the top of the Premier League stretched to a scarcely believable 16 points and another show-stopping turn from that serial slaughterer of defenders.

Raheem Sterling had put City ahead early on with a tap-in from De Bruyne's cross before Jamie Vardy equalised with a deflected effort.

Aguero took over after half-time and scored four times - an audacious chip and a strike from outside the box being the best.

The Argentina striker is now just three goals short of a double century for City and just six shy of bettering his season-best goals tally for the club of 33.

It is only early February and Aguero already has 28 goals in 32 appearances, 13 of which have come in his last seven games at the Etihad.

Do not let anyone tell you this man is past his best.

Raheem Sterling had put City ahead early on with a tap-in from De Bruyne's cross before Jamie Vardy equalised with a deflected effort.

Aguero took over after half-time and scored four times - an audacious chip and a strike from outside the box being the best.

One positive for Leicester was Mahrez returning for the first time since a self-imposed exile after his move to City collapsed.

Leicester manager Claude Puel said: "It was surely a mistake, but the most important thing is to look forward. We have a fantastic player for the squad, for the fans.

"The situation was difficult for him and us, so it was important to approach it with calm and to come back together on the pitch, and to wear again the colours of this club."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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