Pep Guardiola says ‘unique’ Kevin De Bruyne is nearing his absolute best

Pep Guardiola says ‘unique’ Kevin De Bruyne is nearing his absolute best

Pep Guardiola has said the resurgent Kevin De Bruyne is “unique in the world” and admitted the league champions have had to survive during his absences this season.

The Belgian sparkled in Sunday’s 6-3 hammering of Leicester at the Etihad Stadium, scoring an impressive opening goal. De Bruyne’s campaign has been stop-start because of the ankle injury he suffered at Euro 2020, which hampered his pre-season, and contracting Covid in November.

Sunday’s victory was City’s ninth in a row in the Premier League with De Bruyne starting only four of them. Guardiola, whose champions go into the game against Brentford on Wednesday as the league leaders, believes the 30-year-old is nearing his best.

“He’s getting better. I don’t think [he has far to go],” said the Manchester City manager. “He played exceptionally well [against Leicester]. We’ve had six years together with Kevin. What we’ve done when he was fit … he has something unique in the world. We know it. Kevin is an exceptional player.

“He struggled at the beginning of the season and is now much, much better. The Leeds game [when De Bruyne scored twice in a 7-0 win] was really good and against Leicester he was really good all game. He is a fighter and a guy who creates goals and assists. He has been injured in some seasons for a long time and we survived.”

Guardiola often complains about the congested schedule but as City have been eliminated from the Carabao Cup, after winning the trophy the last four years, there is a chance for respite in January with only one match a week.

“After the Arsenal game we have long weeks,” he said. “Right now we have games on the 29th [Brentford] and 1st [Arsenal] – two away fixtures against absolutely tough opponents. The Premier League is like this. That is why it is the most satisfying competition if you are able to win it. You play against all the big teams in different circumstances and you have to solve it. It will be no exception in the next two games.”

Due to the busy festive itinerary Guardiola is not yet sure what changes he can make for Brentford. “I don’t know,” he said. “With this situation, you [can] arrive and go, ‘Oh, this player cannot play’ or someone is injured. The day before the game we’ll travel to London and on the day we are going to see. We’ll pay attention to the quality Brentford have and take a decision.”

Guardiola will soon lose Riyad Mahrez as the Algeria captain will join his nation ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, which starts on 9 January. “It’s early January when he has to travel there,” said the manager, who confirmed that Kyle Walker and John Stones missed the Leicester victory because of injury.