Kevin de Bruyne is metronomic in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City midfield. Whether he is the one providing the assist at the end of the move or not the Belgian midfielder is more often than not involved in the key stages of so many of Manchester City’s attacking moves and so losing a player of his importance and calibre could significantly shake up the team’s ability. Yet, with the outcome of their European ban still on the table, a ruling against the Manchester club could well see them lose de Bruyne and potentially then following suit many of his fellow stars.
Arguably, the most important moment in the modern history of the Premier League club could well occur in a courtroom rather than on the pitch as a single legal ruling looks set to prove a turning point in the club’s fortunes – either giving them the green light to continue their frantic chasing down of Jurgen Klopp’s frighteningly good Liverpool side or curtailing the progress Guardiola has made to date, kickstarting an exodus of key talent from the Etihad and limiting the club’s ability to attract suitable replacements for those players it has lost.
For many of the modern game’s top players, who can command the highest wages from a wealth of top clubs, European football becomes the deciding factor for where they opt to turn out. The opportunity to compete regularly against the best in the world and have a realistic opportunity to compete for and potentially win the most reputable club competition in the modern game – the UEFA Champions League – is the most powerful appeal a club can have.
The same remains true for Manchester City’s players, regardless of any loyalties or bond with the supporters and club. These are world class players who want to be competing in the most elite competitions.
Kevin de Bruyne, to his credit, has been fully open and candid with his thoughts on the matter, stating on record he would have to seriously consider his future at the club should the European ban be upheld but make no mistake, he will be far from the only one should that ruling come down. That courtroom decision could be instrumental in the club’s future.