Football

Pep: De Bruyne can win Ballon d’Or

Titles key to Belgian winning football's top individual accolade, says Man City boss

Manchester City playmaker Kevin de Bruyne will be a serious Ballon d'Or contender if he wins major titles with the English Premier League club, according to his manager Pep Guardiola.

De Bruyne has been vital to City's dominance this campaign with the 26-year-old notching a league-high 14 assists, including three in Saturday's 5-1 rout of Leicester City.

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"No doubt," Guardiola was quoted as saying by Reuters when asked if the Belgian could win the prestigious individual award.

"He is not (just doing it in) one game. It's the whole season, every three days playing that way.

"But he knows and everyone knows, to be there you have to win titles - and titles and titles, especially one.

"But the way he's played, it's difficult to find one (better) in Europe."

De Bruyne has scored 11 goals and provided 17 assists across all competitions for City this season, helping them establish a 16-point lead atop the EPL table, but the midfielder is not focused on individual honours.

"To be fair, when I am busy playing football I don't care (about that)," de Bruyne said.

"I do everything to win titles with the team. What happens after (that) is an extra.

"I am very pleased with the way everything is going for me.

"I am playing this way because the team is playing this way...

"At the end, if you get an individual honour, it is beautiful."

He might not have won football's most prestigious individual honour, but former England and Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp has bestowed upon him another accolade - the best passer the EPL has ever seen.

He told Sky Sports: "I think you just have to acknowledge the imagination, guile and genius of what de Bruyne does because it's like he sees the game in slow motion...

"The way his imagination and his brain works is another level to everyone else...

"I would go as far as to say that if you look at the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Frank Lampard and Ryan Giggs - the top assist makers in the Premier League - I think he is the best I've ever seen at passing the ball.

"He has different types of passes - through-balls, crosses - he has got the full repertoire."

De Bruyne has registered more assists than any other player in Europe's top five leagues since 2012, his tally of 77 putting him one ahead of even Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

Ahead of City's Champions League last-16 first-leg tie against Basel tomorrow morning (Singapore time), Messi warned that Pep Guardiola's men are joint-favourites to win Europe's premier club competition.

He told the Daily Mirror: "Manchester City are one of the strongest teams around, as well as Paris Saint-Germain.

"I also do not exclude Real Madrid in terms of quality and experience, even though they have not yet achieved the expected results.

"Then there's Bayern Munich, another great team who will play until the end.

"Today, however, the best are City and PSG."

For City midfielder Ilkay Guendogan, his team's improvement this season is down to their improved efficiency in front of goal. He told Swiss newspaper Blick: "Everyone is capable of scoring a goal; we've become more efficient in front of the goal.

"He's (Guardiola) been a top player himself, can think in our shoes, can handle different player types, has a clear philosophy on the pitch, and is always capable of turning the right screws.

"He wants attractive football to be played... Wherever he worked... he improves young players."

Football