Kevin De Bruyne: Manchester City star on Champions League final excitement and why stats show club's future is so bright

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Kevin De Bruyne discusses the Champions League final, using analytics to negotiate his new Man City contract, and excelling in different roles under Pep Guardiola. Watch Man City vs Chelsea live on Sky Sports from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm.


"Wow, it's a big one. It's a beautiful step."

It's three days on from Manchester City booking their place in the Champions League final when Sky Sports sits down with him, but Kevin De Bruyne, puffing out his cheeks and unable to hold back a smile, is still coming to terms with the enormity of the achievement.

For so long, City's struggles in Europe have been held up against them but they silenced their critics with a commanding victory over Paris Saint-Germain this week, wrapping up a 4-1 aggregate win which demonstrated the quality which is so clear to see in the Premier League champions-elect.

Unexpected slip-ups have been a frustration for this side in the Champions League in recent seasons and with the strange sight of snow - in May - being shovelled off the pitch before kick-off on Tuesday night, a surprise in the match couldn't be ruled out, despite City's impressive display in Paris in the first leg.

But with Kylian Mbappe injured and unavailable, and Riyad Mahrez among a host of City players on red hot form, City showed their class. Angel Di Maria's red card with a little over 20 minutes remaining allowed City to see out the win relatively comfortably and enjoy the moment.

Kevin De Bruyne celebrates with Riyad Mahrez during Man City's Champions League semi-final win over Paris St-Germain
Image: De Bruyne celebrates with Riyad Mahrez during Man City's Champions League semi-final win over Paris Saint-Germain

"Excitement," said De Bruyne, when asked about his feelings when the full-time whistle blew.

"I don't necessarily think relief because the way the game went, especially after the red card, you know you get the feeling there's a big chance you're not going to lose this anymore. The further it comes to the whistle the more you get excited knowing you're going to play the final.

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"Everybody was really happy and looking forward to playing a final."

That much was clear from the videos shared on social media of the celebrations in the City dressing room after the game. But just as with their Carabao Cup final success last month, the players will have to quickly refocus on the next match.

They can clinch the league title - their third in four years - with victory over their Champions League final opponents, Chelsea, on Saturday. That would cap an historic week for the club.

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While De Bruyne doesn't see Saturday's clash as a chance to land a psychological blow - "Other people can see it differently but I think we've totally different objectives right now" - City's title win, when it does eventually come, will underline their status as a Premier League powerhouse. Their Champions League final offers the chance to become kings of Europe.

Since joining the club in 2015, De Bruyne has seen City go from strength to strength and he's confident the future's bright on the blue side of Manchester. That's not just a hunch, either.

De Bruyne recently committed to a two-year extension to his City contract, which now runs until 2025. His negotiations with the club were conducted without an agent but had another unusual aspect to them as well.

GETTY - Kevin de Bruyne is all smiles following the signing of his extended Manchester City deal 1:01
De Bruyne says he feels 'proud' to have been rewarded with a contract extension which will keep him at Manchester City until 2025 (Pictures: CityTV)

De Bruyne employed an analytics company to pull together data on the direction City are headed in and how important he would be in their future success.

It's a new approach to contract talks - but one which will surely be adopted by other players who are weighing up their options.

"Me and my people around me, we just wanted to reflect on how the team is looking forward for the future," De Bruyne explained.

"So it was mostly based on how the team was set up for the future, comparing with other teams, based on age, contracts... Then how I was helping the team going forward.

"It was not really comparing all the things money-wise, it was just looking at how the team was set up and what is for me the best decision to make. Not that I really needed any help in that, it's more getting the confirmation of what I already thought. It was a nice analysis to look at."

Interestingly, De Bruyne says he has little interest on match stats about his performances from week to week but believes the analytics gave him a chance to look at the bigger picture at City.

From the age profile of the squad - a large group in their prime and a talented pool of younger rising stars - to the contract status of key players, he liked what it revealed.

"I think sometimes, for me, statistics are a little bit too much. Especially as a midfield player, you can do so many good things that are not viewed on a stats sheet," he said.

"I know a lot of people are that way, in comparing people, but I don't really care. I did this stuff basically to look at team structure, team set up for the future.

"It's part of life now. It's way different to 10, 15 years ago when everything was just viewed by the eye and everybody did the eye test and that was it, 'he played good, he played not good' and that was it."

Whether you use the eye test or dive into the numbers, De Bruyne's performances for City this season have once again been exceptional.

He leads the Premier League when it comes to chances created and assists per 90 minutes over the course of the campaign.

More impressively, he has maintained that status as the top creator in the country despite adapting to new roles under Pep Guardiola.

Famed for his deliveries from an inside right midfield position, this season the Belgian has been used more on the left flank, and even as a makeshift forward in Guardiola's sometimes striker-less system.

Kevin De Bruyne has been deployed away from his usual inside right position this season - but has continued to excel
Image: De Bruyne has been deployed away from his usual inside right position this season - but has continued to excel

"Honestly, I just do what I've been asked to do! Whatever the role is," says De Bruyne when asked about the challenge.

"I think in my career I've been played in every other position than centre back, so I've been quite around whatever team I've played for.

"Lately it's been changed a bit for whatever reason, I don't know - that's Pep's decision - but I'm really happy.

De Bruyne greatest assists 5:07
As Manchester City close in on another Premier League title we take a look at some of De Bruyne's greatest ever assists

"With having no holiday last year, my wife being pregnant, my daughter was born, going direct into this season, playing a lot of games in a cramped season, with all the fixtures, it's been brilliant.

"We had a period when we were struggling but even then I was helping the team get victories, so I'm really pleased.

"Obviously sometimes it's been hard and sometimes your body is not going the way you want to go because there's just been too many games this year.

"We talked about it and we said we will only miss one game and that's the FA Cup final. All the other games we're going to play this year, so that's a huge amount of games, it's a lot.

"But, honestly, it's been really good."

It could get even better on May 29, in the Champions League final.

Pitch to Post Preview: Jamie Redknapp on Man City vs Chelsea; Plus: what next for Arsenal, Man Utd after EL ties, and the top four race

Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp joins Peter Smith to discuss Manchester City and Chelsea reaching the Champions League final ahead of their clash at the Etihad this weekend. He also picks out some standout performers from both sides, explaining how Ruben Dias has transformed City, and praising the rise of Phil Foden and Mason Mount.

Sky Sports football writers Oli Yew and Ben Grounds are also on the show to discuss Arsenal's Europa League exit and Man Utd's progress to the final - and what comes next for both sides, with Mikel Arteta under pressure and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side looking to kick on. Ben also assesses the top four race, with some key fixtures coming up, and makes his Pitch for what he thinks will happen in the Premier League this weekend!

Listen to the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Podcast on: Spotify | Apple | Castbox

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