Hyperbole? Absolutely. But not by much. City’s dominant season in the Premier League was a result of De Bruyne’s consistent brilliance in the centre of the park, a player so attuned to the demands of his manager and the vision behind a historic success.
The Belgian duly tops our ranking of midfield maestros in Europe’s top five leagues – see who else made our top 10.
1. Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City
Only an unexpectedly stunning season from Mohamed Salah has kept De Bruyne from sweeping England’s end-of-season awards. City have a squad full of riches, but De Bruyne is the reason they’re champions.
2. David Silva, Manchester City
Speaking of that squad full of riches – was this Silva’s best season in a City shirt? He’s been so good for so long that it seems hard to believe, yet the Spaniard found another level this season to lead his side to the title.
3. Ivan Rakitic, Barcelona
Rakitic has had a resurgent year for Barcelona, often looking like the third-best player in his side behind Messi and Marc-Andre ter Stegen. He rediscovered himself this season after a few below-par campaigns.
4. Miralem Pjanic, Juventus
Pjanic cemented his status as the Serie A‘s best midfielder this season. He’s a player who can be a metronome when Juventus are recycling possession, and visionary and lethal in attack. And that’s before you get to his set-piece prowess.
5. Fernandinho, Manchester City
Pep Guardiola’s insistence on full-throttle attack from even his defenders makes Fernandinho City’s most important player. He’s still glued in to their possession football, but he’s also the rock that anchors their defence.
6. Jorginho, Napoli
It says it all that with Fernandinho at 33, Jorginho is the favourite to deputise and eventually replace him at City. The Brazil-born Italian has had an utterly superb season for Napoli.
7. Saul Niguez, Atletico Madrid
Another player who’s turning heads at Europe’s other leading clubs. Saul’s been a great find for Diego Simeone, an energetic midfielder with an eye for goal.
8. Geoffrey Kondogbia, Valencia
Kondogbia’s stock had dropped sharply going into this season, but he’s redeemed himself just as his team have. Valencia have gone from relegation battlers to the top four, and Kondogbia’s been vital to that transformation.
9. Radja Nainggolan, Roma
He shoots as if his foot is a cannon, bulldozes through midfield like a tank, and runs like he’s a literal engine. Calling him a one-man army might be a disservice to the rest of Roma’s midfield, but he’s been their heartbeat this season.
10. Dani Parejo, Valencia
Much like Kondogbia, Parejo has embodied Valencia’s resurgence. This is a player who started off at Real Madrid but never quite seemed to be good enough for that level. He’s put that theory to bed this season.
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