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LONDON: Two years ago, former Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce interrupted Kevin De Bruyne’s post-match interview after he had inspired Manchester City’s 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final win at St. James’ Park — and joked the midfielder would soon be joining the Magpies.
Newcastle host the Premier League champions again on Sunday, now in a position to attract top players following the takeover by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
But, having been instrumental in their four Premier League titles in the past five seasons and pursuit of a first Champions League success, it is hard to see the brilliant Belgian leaving City anytime soon. And maybe he never will.
While the Abu Dhabi-owned club have undergone a squad evolution this summer with four key personnel from their trophy-laden era having departed, including former captain Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling, De Bruyne enters an eighth season as their current longest-serving player.
Having extended his contract until 2025 — when he will be 34 and have spent 10 years at City since he signed from Wolfsburg for $65 million — he admits he could end his playing career at the club.
“It could be,” he told Arab News exclusively. “I signed my contract until 2025 and my thinking is that I will probably do that contract — and after we will see what happens.
“It changes all the time, football doesn’t it? I’m starting my eighth season here now and that’s a long time, you see a lot of people come and go. Everyone gets older and everyone gets changed some time. Fortunately, I don’t have to go yet, so I’m OK. I’m happy and I’m still having fun.”
With a skillset that entwines exquisite assists and glorious goals, De Bruyne certainly has that joie de vivre on the pitch.
Yet, despite now being widely lauded as the world’s best in his position and named both the English PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season twice in the last three years, he is reluctant to revel in the accolades and adulation.
When De Bruyne does finish, there may well be a statue in his honor at the Etihad, standing proudly alongside other heroes, such as compatriot Vincent Kompany, Spaniard David Silva, and City’s record scorer Sergio Aguero.
He said: “I honestly don’t care. I hope whenever I leave that people look at all the good times and enjoyed the football that I played — and that’s more important than having a statue. I try to be the best version I can be and try to be consistent. I’m at the age now where it’s not really about progressing in many aspects but trying to be the best player I can be every week.
“It’s not like when I was 20 and you want to develop a lot more. I see everything differently now and just want to do whatever I need to win games.
“The ambition is to win — that’s what pushes me to be the best I can be. If the team wins and plays good and I can do the same, that’s what I want to do.”
This is indicative of De Bruyne’s humility and relaxed approach to awards or gushing praise from his peers.
“It just shows the consistency. It’s all about trying to have fun and do a good job, and when people decide about awards or how good you are, they decide, and I accept. You just want to be the best version of what you can be, and the way I look at that situation is other people decide about these things.
“As a player, you reflect on what you have done in your whole career maybe later. At the moment I don’t have the time to think about that, but I’m happy you know and that’s one of the main things. To be happy with what you do, with my family, with my kids and, if you enjoy all that, then that makes it even better.”
With a goal and two assists in his side’s opening two victories, De Bruyne and City have started the season in style and now bid for a sixth successive league win against Newcastle after scoring 20 goals in the other five.
Having pipped Liverpool to the title by a point on the final day last season with a dramatic 3-2 win over Aston Villa — coming back from 2-0 down with just 15 minutes left — they are now chasing a third successive league title too.
Only Manchester United have achieved this in the Premier League era, from 1999-2001 and then 2007-09.
“If we manage that, it would be something nice,” said De Bruyne. “It’s hard to compare teams. It’s a different era, different players, and different teams.
“But I think you understand as a team how hard it is to push yourselves to these limits when you do what we have done.
“People take it maybe for granted that we win so many games — and they think it’s normal. But it’s really not that easy to do what both teams, City and Liverpool, have done — to get so many points and so many wins.
“We work incredibly hard and, especially with the league getting tougher every year and so many teams with a lot of qualities, that makes it even harder.”
City, though, have proved under Pep Guardiola in recent seasons that they relish a challenge. So too does De Bruyne, who feels fit and fired up. “Summer was good, and I started now in good shape, so let’s hope it continues. But I never put any targets on myself. I don’t think it makes sense.
“You can play good games without having any assists or goals. I know people talk about it, and it’s important, but it’s not that important for me.
“When you are close to the records, you try, but it’s not something at the beginning of the season where you think I want to get more than that.”
That said, many expect De Bruyne to break the record of 20 assists in a season he holds jointly with Thierry Henry, especially with Erling Haaland now leading City’s attack following his $60 million move from Borussia Dortmund.
The Norwegian opened his goal account with two at West Ham but had just eight touches, including an assist for Ilkay Gundogan’s goal, in last weekend’s 4-0 win over Bournemouth.
De Bruyne has no doubt City will adapt to Haaland’s strengths and that the striker will flourish, saying he sees similarities with his Belgian teammate Romelu Lukaku.
“He’s a little bit like Rom, but everyone is still so unique, so it’s all good,” he added.
“Playing with different players is a little bit different at the start, but we have played with strikers before. We have had Kun (Aguero), and I played with Wilfried Bony before and with Rom in the national team. So we know what to do with strikers and without.”

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