Less than 12 hours removed from his decisive display to help Manchester City overcome a relentless Borussia Dortmund effort in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, the news was finally announced: the Premier League leaders had agreed a two-year contract extension with their creator-in-chief to keep him at Eastlands until the summer of 2025.
de Bruyne’s long-awaited deal now official
“To get the extension now, at my age (29), is a very proud moment because it means they trust me until I get really old.”
They say timing is everything and perhaps the announcement would’ve been kept under wraps longer, had Marco Reus’ counter-attacking finish been the final action at the Ethiad yesterday.
Instead, Phil Foden responded in the 90th minute with a defiant close-range strike, having missed a handful of promising opportunities to double their lead. They face a trip to the Signal Iduna Park next Wednesday with a slender aggregate advantage, largely thanks to de Bruyne.
As he so often is, the Belgium international was their best player on an evening of fine margins and led like a captain should: regularly on the front foot in possession, propelling a team while Raheem Sterling and departing club legend Sergio Aguero both watched from the bench.
Contract talks had begun at the start of the COVID-19 impacted season and were concluded this past week, ending discussions that followed his ominous comments a few months prior.
City were hit with a two-year ban from European competition for serious breaches of UEFA’s financial fair play regulations, but after a successful appeal against the punishment, comments like these didn’t result in formal bids from interested sides offering Champions League football:
“Once the decision is made, I will review everything. Two years [ban length] would be long, but in the case of one year, I might see.
I play for one of the world’s best teams, play in England – for my competitive view the best competition – and I like that. It remains a challenge to be the best and I need that too.”
As reported by the Athletic, de Bruyne had complained to his international teammates in November that City’s opening offer didn’t meet his expectations – terms worsened by the fact they were prepared to pay Lionel Messi more, had the reported deal materialised last summer.
That said, it wasn’t a stumbling block they couldn’t overcome especially with two years still left on his existing deal. This extension will technically tie him down to Eastlands for a decade, where he has justified the financial outlay (£58m from Wolfsburg) and more in the six years since.
Whether he truly needed to commission a data analytics team, studying his contributions to the team and their chance of continued success, is debatable at best and overenthusiasm at worst.
Solidifying city’s super core
City, whether Pep Guardiola commits his own long-term future there or not, remain the team to beat in England – even if their quest for European supremacy has fallen short in recent seasons.
Ruben Dias has quickly asserted himself as one of the division’s best centre-backs since joining in a £60m move from Portuguese giants Benfica last summer, while Foden (20) and Spanish winger Ferran Torres (21) have potential to settle as first-team regulars over the next decade.
For all of the incessant transfer talk surrounding Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, Gabriel Jesus turned 24 on Saturday while Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva (both 26) will look to silence their respective critics after dropping from such extremely high standards in recent months.
The future remains bright at City, despite Leroy Sane’s acrimonious departure last summer and Aguero being the latest one in the line of club legends to leave at the end of their contract.
Although not always recognised in year-end award ceremonies – just like Aguero over the years – de Bruyne has been their best and most important player since he joined, so this extension is the least he deserves as he attempts to spearhead them into heights they’ve never before reached.
Picture source: Getty Images