Manchester City’s stellar season has been achieved through a team effort but it’s fair to say the jewel in the crown has been midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.
His three assists in City’s 5-1 trouncing of Leicester on Saturday brought his tally for the season in all competitions to a staggering 18 while he’s also popped up eleven goals this term.
This kind of form has helped the Citizens essentially have one hand on the Premier League trophy while success in every other competition they’re involved in is still a possibility at present. The first piece of silverware could come City’s way as soon as February 25 when they take on Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final.
With the Premier League all but sewn up, however, the biggest motivation for the Etihad Stadium club will surely be in the Champions League, and it is here where Pep Guardiola believes it is pivotal for his team to be successful if De Bruyne is to break Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s stranglehold over the Ballon d’Or.
As quoted by RTÉ Sport, the former Barcelona boss is in ‘no doubt’ that his midfielder is in contention for football’s top individual prize but that winning titles would be the deciding factor.
“No doubt. He is not (just doing it in) one game. It’s the whole season, every three days playing that way. Every three days.
“But he knows and everyone knows, to be there you have to win titles – and titles and titles, especially one. But the way he’s played it’s difficult to find one (better) in Europe.”
Quizzed as to whether or not he specifically meant the Champions League when mentioning titles, this was Guardiola’s response:
“Of course. You have to be there in the latter stages. Without the latter stages you will not be nominated.”
With Ronaldo’s team, Real Madrid, seemingly taking a step backwards this season and Barca’s Messi not getting any younger, there will need to be a new winner soon.
Should City win the quadruple, or even a double or treble, this season there will undoubtedly be calls from far and wide for the Belgium international to be handed the accolade for 2018.
Given the award is voted on at the end of the calendar year, however, he will too need to perform at the World Cup this summer.