De Bruyne 'nowhere near' his best after Man City return

AFP , Monday 8 Jan 2024

Kevin De Bruyne admits he is "nowhere near" his best yet after the Manchester City midfielder made his return from a five-month injury absence.

Kevin De Bruyne
Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (R). Photo: AFP


De Bruyne came off the bench in the second half of City's 5-0 win against Huddersfield in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.

Playing for the first time since the opening day of the Premier League season against Burnley in August, the Belgium star was given the last 33 minutes and was quickly back in the old routine as he set up City's fifth goal for Jeremy Doku.

De Bruyne had hamstring surgery after aggravating a problem that had affected him in the latter stages of last season's treble-winning campaign.

Although he is back to fitness, De Bruyne said he needs time to get up to full speed.

"I worked hard and I'm happy to be back. I felt good so I'm pleased about that but I'm still nowhere near where I need to be," he said.

"It's a good continuation of the process of the last few weeks. I feel good, the movements were good, I felt comfortable in what I was doing and that was the only thing I was really looking for.

"To get that ovation after being away for five months gives you more of a boost. There will be moments I want to play every game but I know in the back of my mind I need to take care of myself.

"It's good being January where we have fewer games. I don't expect to be playing too many games and Newcastle next week is a big game so I'll expect to be back on the bench."

De Bruyne was greeted like a returning hero by City fans at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

In his absence, City have been short of their best for much of the campaign.

With De Bruyne back in the fold, they will be expected to step up their bid for an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League title, as well as challenging to retain the Champions League and FA Cup.

While the injury was a blow for De Bruyne, he believes the revitalising rest may be a long-term boost given his heavy schedule for club and country in recent years.

"To be honest I enjoyed it in a way. At the beginning it was a big blow but I knew I was going to be out for four or five months," he said.

"So after the first reaction I thought to myself I needed to work hard when I'm working, but then I could enjoy the things that I've not been able to do with my family and friends.

"Maybe it was good to refresh a little bit. It's not like I needed a break but I took it, to turn a disadvantage into an advantage."

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