Kevin De Bruyne and Oleksandr Zinchenko were filming a video for Manchester City’s YouTube channel a few weeks ago in which they answered questions from fans. Hesham from Egypt inquired as to who they felt will be the finest footballer on the planet in 2030. “I will be retired,” whispered De Bruyne. “No, you already gone,” retorted Zinchenko. “Finished. You are 30 already. You finished.”
As far as footballer jokes go, this isn’t a bad one. But there was a strangely melancholy element in this innocuous male banter, a knowledge that De Bruyne is increasingly recognized as an elder statesman even within the City dressing room, that he has already reached the stage in his career when you start counting the years down instead of up.
It’s an impression bolstered by some of his recent performances, in which the current Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year has begun to show the scarring and attrition of more than a decade at the highest level of the game.
Of course, it’s a matter of degrees. De Bruyne, although becoming slightly leaden and creaking, is still one of the greatest players in the Premier League. Even in this seeming slump, he is capable of creating great moments: the precise through ball for Kyle Walker in Club Brugge’s away thrashing, the brilliant diagonal pass against Liverpool that started the play from which De Bruyne himself scored. However, there has been some decline in recent weeks.
De Bruyne has yet to collect a league assist after an injury-plagued season. His passing and defensive numbers are both significantly worse than in previous seasons. Furthermore, the eyes convey a similar message. Misplaced passes, heavy touches, and a loss of crispness have all been perplexingly deadly moments. Above all, you get the image of a player who is currently attempting and failing to force himself on games, to regain his confidence, and to match the absurdly high standards that he has set for years.
source : Guardian sport