After weeks of rumors, denials and retractions, the deal is finally done: Manchester City have signed attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne on a permanent transfer from German club Wolfsburg, and they spent a lot of money to do it.
The reported £54 million ($83.2 million at current exchange rate) transfer fee is the highest-ever paid for a Belgian player, a record set just this past July when Liverpool paid £32.5 million for Christian Benteke. It's a bold move by Manchester City, spending so much on what at least appears to be a position of strength. Even with that concern, though, it's hard to argue that they are bringing in an incredible talent.
Kevin De Bruyne was the must-watch player in the Bundesliga last season, playing at a very, very high level. Wolfsburg were a very good team last season, make no mistake, but you should equally be aware that they absolutely would not have finished in second place without De Bruyne last season. He was the key cog that elevated Wolfsburg from a very good team to an excellent one.
How did he do that? De Bruyne has one of the best instincts for what to do on the ball in a given situation that you'll see in Europe, and he has a wonderfully balanced technical skill set to complement it. He can drop a pass on a dime from a variety of ranges, both through the air and on the ground. He has an excellent shot from long range, and an excellent burst of acceleration that he can use to crash the box and pick up a goal from closer ranges.
De Bruyne has been, in essence, as close to a complete attacking midfielder as you can ask for. If you were to draw up an ideal prototype of the guy who want behind the striker and how you want him to play, he'd probably be an awful lot like Kevin De Bruyne. There are questions about whether he'll be able to play at that level in England after his lack of success with Chelsea, but after 18 months of regular playing time and sky-high successes, there's no reason to think it's not worth a shot.
It's going to be interesting to see how he gets worked into an attacking midfield group that already includes David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri. Manuel Pellegrini will have his work cut out for him to find a balance between those five players, but if he can do the job, Manchester City become a much more legitimate threat in the Premier League title race.