In his spectacular career thus far, Kevin de Bruyne has really only known one failure. His six months with Chelsea at the start of the 2013-2014 season. JoséMourinho only drafts him for the starting eleven only three times in the competition. He hires him out to Genk and Werder Bremen and then allows him to leave for Wolfsburg. De Bruyne himself would have preferred to go to Borussia Dortmund, but Mourinho did not allow that. According to the German daily Bild, the Portuguese coach did this out of frustration. He was previously banned from taking over Robert Lewandowski by Borussia.
Mourinho always referred to De Bruyne as The Kid. Why the Belgian was never able to impress him has remained unclear. ‘I didn’t like the match he played against Swindon and I din’t like the way he trained’, Mourinho said at a press conference after a Champions League match. ‘Mourinho never told me that himself’, De Bruyne responded to the affair, later in an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws. ‘He never said to me: you don’t train well.’
In the Bundesliga, his qualities are well appreciated. He scores eighteen times, sometimes with his trademark long range shots. And more importantly, he keeps on bringing his fellow players into scoring position. De Bruyne has continued to do that after Pep Guardiola brought him back to the Permier League. Despite the Liverpool championship, fellow players chose Kevin de Buyne as the best player last season. The Belgian broke De Bruyne’s record set by Thierry Henry in the 2002-2003 season with twenty assists. He also scored thirteen times.
It remains a mystery how it is possible that The Special One was so mistaken in his judgement. Patrick de Koster, De Bruyne’s agent went to London in 2014, hoping to get an explanation. ‘Mourinho told me he thought Kevin was a good player, but that the competition was huge’, De Koster explained in Het Laatste Nieuws. ‘In addition, Mourinho said he was able to show with statistics that Kevin was inferior to his competitors. These statistics were about goals, assists and Kevin’s efficiency overall. That analysis was very thorough, I must admit.’
Was that the only problem? Het Laatse Nieuws suggests that a clash of characters may have been a problem also. Mourinho likes strong egos. Types like Drogba, Sneijder and Ibrahimović. ‘We really never spoke to each other’, says De Bruyne. While Mourinho is known for meddling in the private lives of big players, he never did so with De Bruyne. Perhaps the statistics were an excuse and Kevin remained too much The Kid in the eyes of the Portuguese.