Terrible news for fans of Manchester City, pretty football, and Belgium: Kevin de Bruyne’s injury is a serious one.
Apparently he’s got a lateral collateral ligament lesion — isn’t “lesion” a queasy word? — which will keep him out for an estimated three months. The champions are therefore going to have to begin their title defense, as well as their assault on the Champions League, without their best player.
How will they cope? Here are a few ideas.
1. Buy somebody else brilliant for a small to medium fortune
One of the advantages Manchester City has over almost every club in the world is that, as a propaganda vehicle for an extremely rich country, they have money. They have all the money. Where other clubs, even relatively rich ones, might balk at the idea of getting somebody else in for three months injury cover, City—
*crackling in earpiece*
What? It’s August 17th!
The hell? But the rest of Europe … Right. Okay.
Er, apologies. How embarrassing. It appears that this won’t be a viable solution, because the Premier League has closed its window and decided to send itself home from the party early. Oh dear.
2. Embrace 4-4-2
Sergio Agüero leading the line, Gabriel Jesus buzzing around him. Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling barrelling down the wings; Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy barrelling even faster on the overlap. Fernandinho and İlkay Gündoğan pounding around in the middle. Vincent Kompany doing really big headers with his really big head.
Guardiola’s already won the Premier League his way. Now it’s time to win it the proper way. England’s way. Mike Bassett’s way.
3. Ask other clubs nicely if they wouldn’t mind a spot of injury matching
When it comes to the very important business of sorting out which football team is the best football team, injuries are a constant frustration. A tweak here, a twang there, and suddenly one team is weakened against another, and the investigation is skewed.
De Bruyne’s three months on the sidelines — assuming Guardiola’s doctors can’t perform miracles — will include games away at Liverpool, Spurs, and at home against Manchester United. Clearly, to ensure a fair contest, they should ask these teams to rest Mo Salah, Christian Eriksen, and David de Gea respectively. Otherwise, one team gets to pick their best player, while the other has to do without. And that doesn’t sound very scientific to us.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the integrity of the league is at stake here. Would Liverpool’s players and fans really, truly, honestly be able to enjoy a league title, if it were won in the knowledge that De Bruyne’s injury might have played some part in their triumph? Exactly.
4. Get on with something else
We’re not saying this is a good option … but it is an option. And who could really blame City’s players if they just decided to sack this season off? De Bruyne’s a delight to watch; he must be ten times that delight to actually play with.
Those ludicrous, generous, finish-me passes, and those sudden, decisive swipes into the net … none of that? For three whole months? Even Jesus (Christ, not Gabriel) only had to cope in the wilderness for 40 days, and he didn’t have José Mourinho droning on and on and on in the background the whole time.
So this is a perfect excuse to coast a little bit, take it easy, and maybe prioritise one or two other projects that have been on the back burner. Raheem Sterling’s got a tabloid press to antagonise. Benjamin Mendy’s got a follower count to work on. And John Stones has been meaning to get properly into bread making for a while now. Here’s the perfect chance.
5. Play Bernardo Silva for three months
Oh. Yeah, that’ll probably do it. He’s really good.