Kevin De Bruyne: I’m revitalised by injury lay-off – but now I’m Kyle Walker’s No 2

Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City points during the FA Cup match with Huddersfield Town

Kevin De Bruyne has revealed how his five-month injury lay-off gave him the rare chance of a complete mental and physical “reset” that he believes can work to Manchester City’s advantage in the hunt for more silverware.

De Bruyne made his first appearance since the opening day of the season in August when he came on as a second-half substitute in City’s 5-0 FA Cup third-round win over Huddersfield Town on Sunday.

The Belgium midfielder, who underwent surgery on a ruptured hamstring, says he has used the time off to fully recalibrate and ensure he is in peak condition mentally and physically for the second half of the campaign as last season’s Treble winners target a record fourth-successive Premier League title and back-to-back Champions Leagues.

“It’s not like I needed a break, but I took it and turned a disadvantage into an advantage,” he said.

“When I reflect on my career, playing the last 10 years non-stop with a short break, maybe it was good for me to reset a little bit in a way and take care of myself when it is not really possible during the year.

“I hoped I could work hard and come back in a good way and I feel that I’m doing that, but obviously I need to progress.

“I enjoyed it [the time off] 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.”

Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker celebrate last season's Treble
De Bruyne is No 2 to new Man City captain Kyle Walker (right) - Hannah Mckay/Reuters
Ruben Dias passes the captain's armband to Kevin De Bruyne

De Bruyne said the opportunity to spend more time with his wife Michele Lacroix and their three young children, Mason, Rome and Suri, was invaluable.

“Maybe it was good to refresh a little bit – no new hobbies, but it was nice to bring my son and daughter to their practices and see their games, what they do,” he added.

“I could go on holiday, which is never possible normally during the year. On the side, I worked hard also.

“When you have three kids between three and seven [there is] not a lot [you can do] – I’m basically a taxi driver!

“But I enjoyed it. I think they enjoyed that daddy could watch the games and now it will be harder for the missus and everyone to work around the programme.”

De Bruyne was forced off after 36 minutes of the Champions League final victory over Inter Milan in June when the player said he had finally shattered his hamstrings after months spent managing issues with them.

‘I had so much scar tissue it could snap at any moment’

Nonetheless, De Bruyne returned for pre-season and played for 26 minutes in the Community Shield against Arsenal before starting the opening league game at Burnley, only for his fragile hamstrings to give up early in the game.

The Belgian disputes suggestions that he was rushed back too soon, but admits the hamstrings in his right leg were not the prettiest of pictures.

“Whenever I was training in Japan [on City’s pre-season tour] or for the Community Shield and Burnley, everything was fine,” he said.

“I had three hamstrings in a row, but they were nowhere near the same place. I had so much scar tissue that it could snap at any moment.

“People said I returned too quickly but when you train three weeks in a row without any issue, it was fine. I played against Arsenal for 40 minutes or so but then after Burnley it [surgery] just needed to be done.”

City have just two league games this month – Newcastle on Saturday and Burnley on January 31 – plus an FA Cup fourth-round tie, and De Bruyne says the schedule offers him an opportunity to ease his way back in.

‘I’m still nowhere near where I need to be’

“It was a big surgery and I worked hard and I’m happy to be back,” said De Bruyne, who set up Jeremy Doku for City’s fifth goal against Huddersfield. “I felt good [against Huddersfield] so I’m pleased about that, but I’m still nowhere near where I need to be. It’s a good continuation of the process of the last few weeks.

“There will be moments. At the beginning when I was training I was getting tired, but the last few weeks have been fine and today I feel fine.

“I’m very pleased with the way it went. I feel good, the movements were good, I felt comfortable in what I was doing. That was the only thing I was really looking for.

“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.

“We’ve not really had that conversation [with manager Pep Guardiola about minutes]. 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.

“If they need me or want to give me minutes that will be the case, but then [there’s] another two weeks before another [league] game so that is a different momentum so we will see how it is.”

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