Kevin De Bruyne may well miss out on the PFA Player of the Year award - but Man City's star man will be out to show Real Madrid why he is untouchable as the Premier League's top dog

Manchester City have won England's top prize in four of the last nine seasons but have never had a player voted the league's best in that period - with Kevin De Bruyne being the most glaring omission

By Callum Davis Published: 19 May 2021 - 5.16pm

It's a topic that clearly rankles with Pep Guardiola.

"It will be won by a Liverpool player.

"When we won the Premier League, it was won by a Liverpool player. When they win the Premier League, I'm pretty sure they are going to win the player of the season. This award is always for Liverpool."

The often curt Catalan was referring to Manchester City's ongoing omission from the list of PFA Player of the Year winners - and he has a point.

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City have won English football's top prize in four of the last nine seasons but the club have not had a player voted the league's best in that period.

A host of Liverpool players head up the shortlist this time around after the Reds ended their 30-year wait for a top-flight title.

Bookmakers have made Sadio Mane and Reds captain Jordan Henderson joint-favourites to add another trophy to their collection, with Virgil van Dijk also in the running.

Like Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Vincent Kompany before him, Kevin De Bruyne looks set to miss out on the country's top individual award despite turning in terrific individual displays for City week after week in the face of Liverpool's team dominance.

 

The 2018 Player of the Year award went to De Bruyne's former Chelsea team-mate Mohamed Salah after a season that saw City rack up 100 points on the way to being crowned the Premier League's first-ever centurions. 

The non-assuming Brugge-born midfielder laid on 16 assists that season but it was only enough for a runner-up spot on the PFA podium.

Guardiola presented De Bruyne with the Cadbury Playmaker of the Year award, for leading the assists charts, on the final day of this season but it wasn't the trophy either of them wanted to be holding.

Speaking days before Salah's coronation in 2018, Guardiola said: “I am sorry. Maybe in numbers there are guys better than him, but [there is no better] player in this season. For me he was the best, it is my opinion but the opinions of the players could be different.  

List of PFA Player of the Year winners

2019: Virgil van Dijk - Liverpool

2018: Mohamed Salah - Liverpool

2017: N'Golo Kante - Chelsea

2016: Riyad Mahrez - Leicester City

2015: Eden Hazard - Chelsea

2014: Luis Suarez - Liverpool

2013: Gareth Bale - Tottenham

2012: Robin van Persie - Arsenal

2011: Gareth Bale - Tottenham

While recognition in the form of player-of-the-year accolades continues to evade the Belgian for now, his class is by no means going unappreciated by his peers. 

"Kevin De Bruyne should have won the [award] two years ago - he was clearly the best player in the league that season," City winger Bernardo Silva told the Telegraph.

"It is a fair process, but I can't understand why City players don't get the recognition they deserve."

Admiration for De Bruyne extends to players in opposing teams, even if that hasn't always translated to player of the year votes.

"I just love him," Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish recently told BT Sport.

Grealish, who could end up at city rivals Manchester United come the start of next season, added he tries to base his game on the ex-Wolfsburg star's.

"I think he’s unbelievable and I try to base my game on him a little bit. He has absolutely everything and actually doesn’t get enough credit for some of the stuff he produces.

"He has absolutely everything and doesn't get enough credit for some stuff he produces. He's...up there with the likes of Ronaldo, Messi and Kylian Mbappe in my opinion."

Take a look at De Bruyne's numbers and it's no surprise to hear Grealish mention him in the same breath as such prestigious company.  

On the final day of the season, the 29-year-old equalled Thierry Henry's long-held record for the most assists in a single Premier League campaign in a 5-0 victory over relegated Norwich.

"It is nice to have it [the record] and it is nice to have it with Thierry," De Bruyne said afterwards.

"Obviously I know with assists I need my team-mates - I can create the opportunities but if they don't score them, I don't get anything.

"My role is to create as many chances as I can, and help the team get in front of the goal - and then I am hoping they will finish it. They do it a lot of times so I am very grateful for that."  

His tally of assists was seven more than nearest rival Trent Alexander-Arnold who ended the season on 13 respectively.

The ex-Chelsea maestro created an incredible 136 chances, 45 more than the next best player in the league.

In fact, since his City debut, De Bruyne leads an esteemed list of players for most chances created including David Silva, Mesut Ozil and Riyad Mahrez.

De Bruyne is increasingly proving himself to be so much more than a provider.

In a game when he grabbed all the headlines for his record-equalling 20th assist, KDB also had enough time to bag a brace as City brought up 100 league goals for the season.

His tally of 13 goals represents his most prolific return in an English top-flight season.

It's a stat not lost on Guardiola who will need all the firepower he can muster for City's crunch Champions League second leg against Real Madrid. 

"We know the assists and the quality he has for this but we need his goals," he added.  

"We tell them, play simple, play as you know. Don't be focused too much on achieving it because it will come along."

City are likely to be without Aguero for the return leg at the Etihad after the Argentinian underwent knee surgery last month.

De Bruyne was employed in a more advanced central position as a false nine at the Bernabeu. 

The switch paid dividends as the captain on the night proved the architect of a famous European comeback. 

Trailing to Isco's goal on the hour mark, De Bruyne turned the game on its head, setting up Gabriel Jesus for City's equaliser before netting from the penalty spot.

For a player whose talents seem limitless, it was in fact the first time he has both scored and assisted in a Champions League match as City beat 13-time European champions Real Madrid for the first time in their history.

If the Citizens are to complete another first and lift the Champions League trophy, they will need their most prized asset to prove any naysayers wrong on the biggest stage of them all.

Watch Manchester City v Real Madrid on Friday 7 August from 7pm on BT Sport 1HD and BT Sport Ultimate.