May 24, 2018 / 2:08 PM / 7 months ago

Belgium bank on king of assists De Bruyne to steer them to glory

(Reuters) - Kevin De Bruyne is already counted among the world’s top players after his exploits during Manchester City’s spectacular march to the Premier League title but the World Cup in Russia will present the midfielder with a chance to become part of Belgian folklore.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City vs Huddersfield Town - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - May 6, 2018 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne applauds fans after winning the Premier League title REUTERS/Phil Noble

The 26-year-old has been the driving force in Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking City side who earned more points and wins in the Premier League than any previous champions.

De Bruyne’s work rate and ability to produce a procession of pinpoint passes helped to lift City to a new level, leaving all other title aspirants lagging way behind.

His unrivalled range of short and long passing can tear apart sides and he has registered more assists than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues since 2012.

Belgium captain and Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard believes his team mate could create “magic” with the ball at his feet.

“He’s fantastic,” Hazard told Sky Sports recently. “He’s clever on and off the pitch.

“When he’s on the pitch with good players, he’s one of the best in the world. Every time he has the ball at his feet he can do something magic.

“He doesn’t score a lot of goals but he can create something with just one movement or pass. It’s simple, he’s a special player.”

De Bruyne’s passing and attacking play from deep is of the highest quality and he can find a player on the move with a perfectly placed and weighted pass.

He also has the ability to find the net from distance and is hard to catch with the ball at his feet and open space in front of him.

It helps Belgium coach Roberto Martinez to use De Bruyne in a central role in a 3-4-3 formation in the national side.

“We get a lot of advantage from getting him on the ball,” the Spaniard said. “Systems very much depend on the teams you play but it is a system that has worked for us very well in qualification.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Neville Dalton

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