With speculation mounting over Chelsea’s swoop for the signature of Genk’s pacey winger, we need to talk about Kevin. But will the Drongen dynamo adapt to Premier League football, or even make the starting eleven soon?
The move was inevitable once Andre Villas-Boas admitted he was keen on acquiring the latest talent to emerge from Genk’s youth system. With many British transfer gossip columns spreading the news that an £8m fee is being discussed between the two club, it appears that Kevin De Bruyne will be donning the Chelsea shirt for good, sometime in the near future. Chelsea have tracked the progress of De Bruyne since the summer when some sources claimed De Bruyne was denied a move to Stamford Bridge.
Villas-Boas is looking to add yet another gifted young Belgian to his squad, shifting some of the deadwood who don’t fit into his plans. But given the lack of playing time Romelu Lukaku has had at Chelsea, perhaps the hierarchy at Chelsea approached this deal with some trepidation, waiting to see how De Bruyne played in the months after facing them in the Champions League.
It seems likely that when the deal is finalised that De Bruyne will head back on loan to the club for the rest of the season, enabling him to keep playing first-team football regularly, unlikely Lukaku. This more favourable scenario was met for Chelsea’s other Belgian signing, De Bruyne’s former Genk colleague Thibaut Courtois, who has impressed at times with Atletico Madrid. It’s fair to say that whilst the potential is great with some of Belgian’s brightest prospects, they currently don’t have the strength and physicality to make an immediate impact on the English game. Which is probably what Chelsea need at the moment – someone to grasp their chance quickly before they fall further behind.
In truth, De Bruyne owes Genk another full season at the club. His form has stagnated this term – although this may well be harsh considering the exceptional performances he put on during Genk’s championship winning season, and you can also factor in injuries there too. Not mention the fact he had glandular fever too!
De Bruyne was a shining light last season for Genk, a breath of fresh air when the league began in August. He couldn’t have made a bigger impact in the opening game against Gent rifling in a 30-yarder in the 13th minute. Even ESPN picked up on the remarkable strike. And got his name wrong.
From here, De Bruyne got better and better each week, confounding many a mediocre right-back with his array of trickery, before beating them for pace cutting inside or out wide. He’d either put in a near-perfect cross or let fly with either foot – he’s adept with both. Not many could deal with the energetic presence of the teenager, who played 32 league games and was pivotal in them picking up the league title. His five goals may not have been impressive but his 16 assists were certainly. De Bruyne’s a perfect example of a modern winger who loves to join the centre of the action – and in this case would be an ideal fit to Andre Villas-Boas’ eventual fluid approach.
This year, a leg injury and playing for new coach Mario Been, have stifled his development slightly. Only one game really stands out in my mind where he was in top form – the nine goal thriller vs Club Brugge which cost Adrie Koster his job. De Bruyne grabbed a hat-trick at the Jan Breydel. The first came within three minutes, deceiving Jimmy De Jonghe before firing past Colin Coosemans. He then brought Genk from 4-2 down to 5-4 up. The equaliser saw him create space yet again on the left and power an effort into the roof of the net. He saved the best til last, making the most of a shell-shocked Brugge defence and chipping it over the goalkeeper. Majestic.
Chelsea fans will of course remember De Bruyne from the two Champions League ties. At Stamford Bridge, Genk were out of their depth, yet De Bruyne was a cut above the rest, possibly issuing a ‘come get me plea’. His terrorising of Jose Bosingwa was noted by Ray Wilkins on commentary at least – uttering a few ‘my words’ and some ‘this young lad’. The return leg went even better for De Bruyne – as Mr Zonal Marking, Michael Cox notes within his brilliant De Bruyne tactical piece. For someone who’s had little international experience (mainly due to the competition of Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard, Nacer Chadli and Moussa Dembele ahead of him), he made the most of those Champions League games.
One problem is De Bruyne’s frame – he could be considered too lightweight by Premier League standard. Belgian expert John Chapman uses this description of De Bruyne:
It may be fair to say that De Bruyne’s head could have been turned by his potential suitor, but it’s certain that he’d give 100% for Chelsea should he sign for them. His presence could be the perfect foil to get Chelsea’s strikers going as Jelle Vossen had a lot to thank him for at Genk.
An astute buy from Villas Boas, neatly fitting into the left side of the three-pronged attack, which would allow Juan Mata to assume a central position and Florent Malouda to make his exit. Now De Bruyne needs to prove his worth for the rest of the season for Genk – experience is vital for him to make that Chelsea side. I think he’s a way off a first-teamer for the Blues but come the summer, he could well be ready. With a Belgian clique there, the odds are even better.
Tagged Andre Villas-Boas, Belgian, Belgium, Belgofoot, Champions League, Chelsea, Club Brugge, Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard, Florent Malouda, Gareth Bale, Genk, John Chapman, Jose Bosingwa, Kevin De Bruyne, Mario Been, Michael Cox, Moussa Dembele, Nacer Chadli, Premier League, Ray Wilkins, Romelu Lukaku, Stamford Bridge, Thibaut Courtois, We need to talk about Kevin, Zonal Marking