The former Werder Bremen coach worked with two of the Premier League’s most creative players during their formative years
Former Werder assistant manager Wolfgang Rolff worked with both players in the early stages of their careers.
Ozil spent two and a half seasons at the Bundesliga club before joining Real Madrid in 2010, while De Bruyne enjoyed a productive year on loan from Chelsea in 2012-13.
“Ozil was a great talent, but he certainly had physical weaknesses at the age of 18,” Rolff said in an interview with Goal and SPOX.
“He worked really hard and was able to learn a lot in the shadow of Diego.
“Thanks to his talent, his speed and his passing game, he grew a lot and had a great career.
“He always had what was needed; he put it into practice well later on at Real Madrid and at Arsenal.”
When Ozil left in 2010, his fellow playmaker Diego had also moved on, leaving Werder short of creativity.
In 2012, they found a short-term solution in De Bruyne, taking the youngster on a season-long loan which brought 10 Bundesliga goals in 34 appearances.
“Kevin came to us from Chelsea at the time,” Rolff explained.
“It is common in Germany that you have to do more running than in England or Belgium.
“He said, ‘It’s great to train with the ball, but you do so much training without!’. Although we always trained a lot with the ball at Werder.
“But he accepted that well and what he has done with himself now is of course fantastic. He has always been a great talent with uncanny abilities – quick, two-footed, dangerous.”
De Bruyne was already being earmarked as a potential star of the future, and surprised some by choosing to go to Werder with Borussia Dortmund also reported to be interested.
“I think the negotiations with Klaus Allofs and Thomas Schaaf showed him the players who have made a big jump in their careers at Werder, such as Johan Micoud or Diego,” Rolff said.
“So he was on board and he saw that he could take the next step with us.”