MANCHESTER City’s midfield magician Kevin De Bruyne might have looked unstoppable this season, but the Clarets could have just the man to take his wand away this weekend.
The Belgian ace has been running the show for Pep Guardiola’s free-scoring City this season, but his current form is no surprise to his international compatriot at Turf Moor, and former housemate, Steven Defour.
De Bruyne and Defour have known each other for the best part of 12 years, since they were teenage sensations at Genk sharing a house together, giving the opposition the runaround before returning home for battles on the PlayStation.
Defour is three years De Bruyne’s senior, but the picture he paints of their time together at Genk is one of a childhood genius with the ball at his feet, already a step ahead of his colleagues and his coaches.
Defour, 29, was in his last year at school living in digs in Genk when a shy De Bruyne arrived, aged around 12 or 13. He might have been quiet around his teammates, but on the pitch he already had the ball doing his talking.
“He really knew what he wanted at that point. He knew he wanted to be a professional player,” Defour said of his first impressions of the man he will seek to shackle at the Etihad Stadium.
“Even then, he could see things way faster than anyone else, so he could argue with the coach. Not really arguing, but if the coach said ‘you have to play the ball right’ he would say no if he could see a better option because he was so ahead of his team-mates.
“We knew he was good. What struck me about him was right foot, left foot, they were basically the same, which was a remarkable for a boy of 12 or 13 years old.
“He has a lot of character and when it is not going the way he wants, he will tell you. But he’s not a guy who will talk all the time. It’s just when he wants to say something he will say it.”
De Bruyne still looks the quiet type even as his reputation reaches new levels, and that is exactly how Defour remembers him from their time together in Belgium.
“He was quiet, a good guy, who wanted to play football,” he said. “We were always playing on the PlayStation or football outside. I was going into the first team so I was away a lot and he was 12 or 13 with the other kids.”
Pressed on who was the PlayStation king Defour gives the diplomatic answer, but he believes De Bruyne’s skills in real life have surpassed those who could produce on a console.
“I don’t know. I can’t remember,” he said. “I think he scores better goals than in real life.”
De Bruyne has taken a deeper role with City this season and it’s one he thrived in, turning in a majestic display in the 7-2 win over Stoke City last weekend.
But Defour cautions against focusing too much on his former housemate.
“He’s playing a little bit lower now so he fetches a lot more balls than last year. He’s starting all their attacks, he’s orchestrating the Man City team,” he said.
“He is performing good. He’s really down to earth. You can see the way he plays, he’s so relaxed. If it’s not going the way he wants to, he gets a bit angry, for the rest, he’s a really relaxed character who wants to play football.
“We’re going to have to shut him down, and Silva, and Sane, and the whole team.”
Source : LancashireTelegraph