Martinez: De Bruyne has matured into an exceptional player

The Manchester City and Belgium international star had been enjoying a remarkable season before the coronavirus shutdown

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez says that Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne has matured into a “exceptional player”.

The Spaniard says that De Bruyne, who was on course to set a Premier League record in assists before the coronavirus pandemic halted play in England during March, has elevated his performance levels due to a renewed maturity in his game and is now one of the outstanding stars in the sport.

Martinez stated that he felt the change in the former Chelsea star’s performance was most evident against Real Madrid as City fought back from one down to overcome the Spanish giants in the first-leg of the clubs’ last-16 Champions League clash, with ‘KDB’ setting up one goal and scoring the other from the penalty spot.

“Kevin started as a very young, promising player in Genk, and from there he had a really tough period [at Chelsea]. He’s become an exceptional player after facing adversity,” Martinez told The Times.

“He never looked to blame anyone, never looked to be happy where he was, and when he made it at Wolfsburg, and going to Manchester City and now working with Pep Guardiola, he’s become a player in the best moment of his career.

“He controls the space like nobody. He can execute the pass with precision and with the speed of actions that not many players can and now he has the maturity and emotional intelligence to perform the way he did at Santiago Bernabeu.

“The team goes 1-0 down and he has that strength of character to bring the team back into the game and even winning. Psychologically and mentally, Kevin is now in a fantastic moment, which highlights his real strength, that technical ability of using space and time with exceptional touch.”

De Bruyne played 26 Premier League matches for City this season, scoring eight goals and creating 17 more – putting him well on track to challenge Arsenal legend Thierry Henry’s record of 20 decisive passes, which was achieved in the 2002-03 campaign.

Indeed, despite only 28 rounds of the season having been played by Pep Guardiola’s side, De Bruyne’s tally of 17 is eclipsed by only Chelsea pair Frank Lampard (2004-05) and Cesc Fabregas (2015-16) otherwise.