Kevin de Bruyne is currently at the best place he can be – away from Chelsea. It’s not a needless swipe at the Blues, but it does help that the Belgian has played in all of Werder Bremen’s league games this season. With both the player and Chelsea seemingly in the dark over his future, what should the European champions do with the midfielder?
I wouldn’t want to paint a picture that suggests de Bruyne has found his level. As of now, he’s performing well in a decent Bundesliga side with two other young players in attack. However, that’s not to say de Bruyne won’t improve significantly in the coming seasons: he will, provided, of course, he remains on a similar path.
The German side play a good attacking game, with Marko Arnautovic operating on one flank and on-loan forward Nils Petersen spearheading the attack. Incidentally, Petersen, who joined from Bayern last summer, is in a similar situation of needing regular first-team football, which he was certain to miss at the Allianz Arena this season.
It’s a great display of his talent that de Bruyne has scored six and assisted eight in his first full season in one of Europe’s top leagues. The pressure is off at Bremen. And despite the club hovering close to the relegation spots, it’s far more comforting for Chelsea to know that his development is on track and that he is a key part of Thomas Schaaf’s team.
Let’s make no mistake about it: whatever happens to Werder Bremen this season, there will be teams after de Bruyne in the summer. He’s a promising talent with plenty of upside to his game. Does he fit the mould of Chelsea’s current attack? Considering Bremen play with a near-reckless reliance on attack, the Belgian should be well prepared to link up with players like Juan Mata and Eden Hazard.
But does that mean he should? Marko Marin, despite having a few years on de Bruyne, is a good example, as well as Romelu Lukaku. The latter has rarely been spoken of during talk of Chelsea’s solution to the Fernando Torres problem, and Marin can’t get a look in now that the club were able to put their European cup to good use in the transfer market.
It’s noticeably similar stories, in fact. Both Marin and de Bruyne were picked up well before the summer transfer window. Hazard was off the table and seemingly on his way to any Premier League club above Chelsea in the league table, and Marin was brought in to get the ball rolling ahead of an unusual summer. In many ways, Chelsea winning the Champions League was the worst thing that could have happened to Marin, and now de Bruyne too is feeling the effects of limited opportunities.
The other issue moving forward is that de Bruyne doesn’t promise that same level of excitement in the way signings like Mata and Hazard did. He’s talented of course, but arriving without the reputation of others, including other youngsters, could hamper his development at Stamford Bridge. It’s important to note that the player has come a long way this season since January 2012, and the fact that Chelsea is not too sure at this stage should offer the best indication for their intentions this summer.
Even with performances that haven’t always lived up to expectation this season, Hazard is a sure-fire starter ahead of de Bruyne at Chelsea. Bringing Juan Mata into the discussion isn’t even necessary. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be an asset. Victor Moses provides a lot, yet he was always prepared for what awaited him at Stamford Bridge following his spell with Wigan. Yes, it would be ideal for Chelsea to find a temporary suitor for De Bruyne in the Premier League, and as mentioned there is certain to be a long list of clubs keen on his services.
Yet it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. The only player currently out on loan from Chelsea who raises legitimate questions about next season is Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian goalkeeper is one of the very best youngsters in his position in Europe. He’s won trophies with Atletico, and the La Liga club are more than interested to hang onto him. De Bruyne just does not force that level of interest and excitement.
Due to his reputation and comparably low transfer fee, it might not be totally inaccurate to assume de Bruyne doesn’t have a lengthy career at Stamford Bridge, despite what he can bring to the team. The positive, however, would be that Chelsea offer the player plenty of assurances that he does have a future with the club and that he can play an integral role in the coming years.
But even with the somewhat erratic nature of Chelsea’s transfer business, history dictates that the Belgian midfielder would be best served finding a permanent home elsewhere. The interference from Roman Abramovich with regards to how a manager uses his squad will also play against de Bruyne. A manager with full control of the team could bring the best out of the youngster, but like many managers in the past, ‘failing’ as a young player at Chelsea isn’t really a mark on your talents or future prospects.
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