Players tend to experience journeys throughout the course of their careers, not just in terms of clubs and countries, but roles too.
For various reasons, it’s unlikely that a player will be suited to executing the same responsibilities on the pitch from his debut until his retirement.
Kevin de Bruyne is a perfect example, having spent time at VfL Wolfsburg before signing for Manchester City in 2015.
Throughout his time on the pitch, De Bruyne has been deployed in a variety of different roles, so with European football currently on pause, let’s take a look at his tactical journey so far, with a look ahead to what he may become in the future.
Five years ago, the Belgian had just arrived in Manchester having been signed for around £55m.
Manuel Pellegrini was still at the helm, and he used De Bruyne in a wide variety of areas including as a striker.
Of the 3,300 minutes that he accumulated in all club competitions in his debut season, over 1,000 of those were amassed on the left of midfield, which seems almost unthinkable in the present day due to his remarkable crossing threat from the right.
Pellegrini clearly recognised De Bruyne’s ability, but he appeared relatively unsure where to use him within his preferred 4-2-3-1 system.
He made 41 appearances in his debut campaign, scoring 15 and assisting 13, but nine of those returns came in the League Cup.
The 24 year-old was by no means a flop, but his true potential hadn’t yet been unlocked and he was yet to showcase exactly why City paid such a large amount for his services.
Five years later, that is no longer the case.
Pep Guardiola had specific plans for the talented playmaker, involving a move into midfield where he’d execute an unorthodox role as a no.8 in defence but a no.10 of sorts in attack.
‘Free eights’ were the terms fashioned for David Silva and De Bruyne under their new boss.
City’s domination of possession allowed Guardiola to deploy less physical talents in the centre of the park without suffering. They didn’t have to defend much, because they rarely lost the ball.
De Bruyne has since proved to be relentless, registering a total of 54 assists in the Premier League under the Spaniard with one posted roughly every 170 minutes, or every 1.9 matches.