Manchester City enjoying ‘best version’ of Kevin De Bruyne

Exclusive Manchester City enjoying ‘best version’ of Kevin De Bruyne
Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 August 2022

Manchester City enjoying ‘best version’ of Kevin De Bruyne

Manchester City enjoying ‘best version’ of Kevin De Bruyne
  • With a goal and two assists in his team’s opening two victories, the Belgian has started the new Premier League season in style as City visit Newcastle on Sunday
  • When De Bruyne does finish, there may well be a statue in his honor at the Etihad, standing proudly alongside other heroes

LONDON: Two years ago, former Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce interrupted Kevin De Bruyne’s post-match interview after he had inspired Manchester City’s 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final win at St. James’ Park — and joked the midfielder would soon be joining the Magpies.
Newcastle host the Premier League champions again on Sunday, now in a position to attract top players following the takeover by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
But, having been instrumental in their four Premier League titles in the past five seasons and pursuit of a first Champions League success, it is hard to see the brilliant Belgian leaving City anytime soon. And maybe he never will.
While the Abu Dhabi-owned club have undergone a squad evolution this summer with four key personnel from their trophy-laden era having departed, including former captain Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling, De Bruyne enters an eighth season as their current longest-serving player.
Having extended his contract until 2025 — when he will be 34 and have spent 10 years at City since he signed from Wolfsburg for $65 million — he admits he could end his playing career at the club.
“It could be,” he told Arab News exclusively. “I signed my contract until 2025 and my thinking is that I will probably do that contract — and after we will see what happens.
“It changes all the time, football doesn’t it? I’m starting my eighth season here now and that’s a long time, you see a lot of people come and go. Everyone gets older and everyone gets changed some time. Fortunately, I don’t have to go yet, so I’m OK. I’m happy and I’m still having fun.”
With a skillset that entwines exquisite assists and glorious goals, De Bruyne certainly has that joie de vivre on the pitch.
Yet, despite now being widely lauded as the world’s best in his position and named both the English PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season twice in the last three years, he is reluctant to revel in the accolades and adulation.
When De Bruyne does finish, there may well be a statue in his honor at the Etihad, standing proudly alongside other heroes, such as compatriot Vincent Kompany, Spaniard David Silva, and City’s record scorer Sergio Aguero.
He said: “I honestly don’t care. I hope whenever I leave that people look at all the good times and enjoyed the football that I played — and that’s more important than having a statue. I try to be the best version I can be and try to be consistent. I’m at the age now where it’s not really about progressing in many aspects but trying to be the best player I can be every week.
“It’s not like when I was 20 and you want to develop a lot more. I see everything differently now and just want to do whatever I need to win games.
“The ambition is to win — that’s what pushes me to be the best I can be. If the team wins and plays good and I can do the same, that’s what I want to do.”
This is indicative of De Bruyne’s humility and relaxed approach to awards or gushing praise from his peers.
“It just shows the consistency. It’s all about trying to have fun and do a good job, and when people decide about awards or how good you are, they decide, and I accept. You just want to be the best version of what you can be, and the way I look at that situation is other people decide about these things.
“As a player, you reflect on what you have done in your whole career maybe later. At the moment I don’t have the time to think about that, but I’m happy you know and that’s one of the main things. To be happy with what you do, with my family, with my kids and, if you enjoy all that, then that makes it even better.”
With a goal and two assists in his side’s opening two victories, De Bruyne and City have started the season in style and now bid for a sixth successive league win against Newcastle after scoring 20 goals in the other five.
Having pipped Liverpool to the title by a point on the final day last season with a dramatic 3-2 win over Aston Villa — coming back from 2-0 down with just 15 minutes left — they are now chasing a third successive league title too.
Only Manchester United have achieved this in the Premier League era, from 1999-2001 and then 2007-09.
“If we manage that, it would be something nice,” said De Bruyne. “It’s hard to compare teams. It’s a different era, different players, and different teams.
“But I think you understand as a team how hard it is to push yourselves to these limits when you do what we have done.
“People take it maybe for granted that we win so many games — and they think it’s normal. But it’s really not that easy to do what both teams, City and Liverpool, have done — to get so many points and so many wins.
“We work incredibly hard and, especially with the league getting tougher every year and so many teams with a lot of qualities, that makes it even harder.”
City, though, have proved under Pep Guardiola in recent seasons that they relish a challenge. So too does De Bruyne, who feels fit and fired up. “Summer was good, and I started now in good shape, so let’s hope it continues. But I never put any targets on myself. I don’t think it makes sense.
“You can play good games without having any assists or goals. I know people talk about it, and it’s important, but it’s not that important for me.
“When you are close to the records, you try, but it’s not something at the beginning of the season where you think I want to get more than that.”
That said, many expect De Bruyne to break the record of 20 assists in a season he holds jointly with Thierry Henry, especially with Erling Haaland now leading City’s attack following his $60 million move from Borussia Dortmund.
The Norwegian opened his goal account with two at West Ham but had just eight touches, including an assist for Ilkay Gundogan’s goal, in last weekend’s 4-0 win over Bournemouth.
De Bruyne has no doubt City will adapt to Haaland’s strengths and that the striker will flourish, saying he sees similarities with his Belgian teammate Romelu Lukaku.
“He’s a little bit like Rom, but everyone is still so unique, so it’s all good,” he added.
“Playing with different players is a little bit different at the start, but we have played with strikers before. We have had Kun (Aguero), and I played with Wilfried Bony before and with Rom in the national team. So we know what to do with strikers and without.”


Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss
Updated 58 min 30 sec ago

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss
  • Rybakina powered down nine aces and 31 winners over two hours and 28 minutes of punch and counter-punch
  • Sabalenka was unstoppable on Rod Laver Arena

MELBOURNE: Elena Rybakina said she struggled with the “pressure” and aggression from Aryna Sabalenka in falling to defeat in the Australian Open final on Saturday.
The Russian-born Kazakh gave as good as she got over three pulsating sets at Melbourne Park before losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the face of some ferocious hitting from fifth seed Sabalenka.
Rybakina, who has one of the most potent serves in women’s tennis and some of the fiercest groundstrokes, powered down nine aces and 31 winners over two hours and 28 minutes of punch and counter-punch.
But Sabalenka was unstoppable on Rod Laver Arena, the Belarusian juggernaut hitting back with 17 aces of her own and 51 winners, finally getting over the line on her fourth match point.
“I would say that not many girls can put me really under that sort of pressure,” Rybakina, 23, told reporters.
“She has a great serve and she plays really aggressive. Her ball is coming very heavy.
“I just knew that I had to serve well. It’s also pressure in the end, as soon as I have an opportunity, take it.
“Today I had some opportunities and didn’t take. The match didn’t go my way.”
Wimbledon champion Rybakina has now failed to beat Sabalenka in all of their four meetings and admitted she needs to improve if she is to break her duck.
“With Aryna now, the score is 0-4,” Rybakina said. “I would say the most challenging for me now is to play against Aryna again and get a win.
“Against a powerful player like her, I need to play more to improve.”
Rybakina will have the consolation of breaking into the top 10 for the first time, after reaching her second Grand Slam final in seven months.
She was awarded no ranking points for her Wimbledon win because of the ban on Russian and Belarusian players there.
“I don’t think tomorrow I’m going to feel different just because of the ranking now,” said Rybakina, who is projected to rise to 10th from her current 25th on Monday when the new rankings are published.
“But, I mean, for sure it’s going to be different in the smaller tournaments. I’m going to be seeded and maybe in some tournaments I’m not going to play first round, so of course there is some benefits.”


‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season
Updated 28 January 2023

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

DIRIYAH: Formula E is back for its ninth season and after a two-week break following an opener in Mexico City, the Diriyah E-Prix kicked off on Friday in the Saudi capital with two days of racing on the Diriyah Street Course.

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team driver Pascal Wehrlein won round two of ABB FIA Formula E.

British racer Jake Dennis for team Avalanche Andretti said that the big difference between the Gen3 car from the Gen2 is in the grip and power of the vehicles. “But I think we did a really good debut night race here. You know, it was a lot of overtaking for everyone. It seemed like the race was action-packed the whole time. So I think we can be really happy with, you know, the good show and the pre-race build looks pretty cool as well with the fireworks and the drone display. So yeah, very happy for everyone involved to put on a good show today,” he said.

“Yeah, those Gen3 cars are massively different. They have more power, we have different tires. Also, the energy management is completely different. So, we have a lot to learn still. We are still figuring out how this animal works. But overall, I think we were making good progress. Especially I did a big step from yesterday to today. finishing fifth today for me, is quite a good result,” said Rene Rast, a German driver with McLaren.

 This season, laps have replaced the previous 45-minute timed races and pit stops are also back with the “attack charge” to be trialed at select races. (Arab News)

Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa of Porsche described it as “awesome” to be back in Saudi Arabia. “It’s impressive to see the evolution of this place or the area, where everything’s being built around and how we are always welcome,” he said, adding that the Kingdom always gives a warm welcome to the Formula E. “The track is one of the most fun tracks of the year. And it’s a big challenge. But it’s a lot of fun.”

He added that every track is different, but that the Diriyah course has a lot of character. “You know, there’s a sector, too, it’s kind of high speed, you know, a good sequence of corners which is a good challenge for us and makes it fun,” he said.

This season, laps have replaced the previous 45-minute timed races and pit stops are also back with the “attack charge” to be trialed at select races.


LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million
Updated 28 January 2023

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million
  • Sotheby’s in New York sold the jersey, which James wore while playing for  Miami Heat in their 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 victory against San Antonio Spurs

NEW YORK: A game-worn jersey of basketball superstar LeBron James sold for $3.7 million at auction Friday, five times more than the previous record for one of his shirts.

The sale comes with interest even higher than usual in the 38-year-old LA Lakers icon as he nears the NBA’s all-time scoring record.

Sotheby’s in New York sold the jersey, which James wore while playing for the Miami Heat in their 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 victory against the San Antonio Spurs.

It smashed the previous record of $630,000 for a James All-Star jersey worn in 2020.

Game-worn sports memorabilia is big business.

Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals jersey, which sold for $10.1 million in September 2022, is currently the most valuable such item.

Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey sold for $9.3 million at Sotheby’s in London last year.

James needs just 178 points to eclipse Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s tally of 38,387 points, one of the most coveted and longstanding records in basketball.

Sotheby’s also sold a dress worn by the late Princess Diana for $604,800 Friday.


Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
Updated 28 January 2023

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
  • Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th

LEIPZIG, Germany: Two sweetly hit shots from Dominik Szoboszlai lifted Leipzig to a 2-1 win over Stuttgart to close within a point of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Friday.

Szoboszlai had not scored in the league since September before the Hungarian midfielder gave his team the lead with a swerving, dipping free kick in the 25th minute that goalkeeper Florian Muller could only push into his own net.

Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th, using one touch to control a header from teammate Andre Silva on the edge of the penalty area before letting the ball drop and striking a half-volley that left Muller no chance.

Embroiled in a fight to avoid relegation, Stuttgart had plenty of chances to exploit defensive errors from Leipzig but couldn’t convert enough of them.

Shortly before Szoboszlai’s second goal, Stuttgart’s Niklas Nartey could have leveled the score when he was one-on-one with Leipzig goalkeeper Janis Blaswich, but his shot bobbled wide of the far post instead. Stuttgart finally scored when Chris Führich powered a penalty past Blaswich in the 68th after a handball by defender Joško Gvardiol. That ensured a tense finish for Leipzig but the hosts largely kept Stuttgart at bay in the closing stages.

Bayern has drawn both of its opening games of 2023, including one against Leipzig last week, as it adapts to life without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who has a broken leg. Bayern can restore a four-point lead if it beats fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.


Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
Updated 28 January 2023

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
  • England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester City issued a statement of intent by knocking out Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup on Friday.

Nathan Ake’s 64th-minute goal settled the fourth-round match at Etihad Stadium and the result may yet reverberate through the rest of the season.

Arsenal lead City by five points at the top of the English Premier League, but their seven-game unbeaten run was ended by City, who have three straight wins in all competitions.

England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15. For now, City manager Pep Guardiola has gained an edge on his former assistant, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.

“I know how difficult it is to beat Arsenal. They lost one game in the Premier League, so I know how difficult it is,” Guardiola said.

Defender Ake was the unlikely match-winner after curling a low shot past goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Arsenal had chances while enjoying the better of the first half. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Leandro Trossard forced saves from City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, and Eddie Nketiah fired narrowly wide from close range.

The visitors were made to pay when City improved after the break and Ake produced the decisive strike.

“(I’m) really disappointed,” Arteta said. “We could have got much more out of the game. In the big moments in big matches you have to make the difference.”

While a place in the fifth round of the cup was at stake, it was impossible to ignore the wider context of a match between the teams who are the front-runners in the league race.

Arsenal have been in outstanding form, picking up 50 points after 19 games and playing with a confidence not seen since Arsene Wenger’s title-winning teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As if to underline the fact that the cup is neither team’s priority, Guardiola and Arteta left key players out of their lineups.

Guardiola benched Ederson, Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva.

Arteta left out Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, William Saliba, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Arsenal’s new signing, Trossard, was given his first start since joining from Brighton last week.

Despite the changes, Arsenal created the better chances in the first half but could not make them count.

City began to control the game after the break without creating many clear-cut openings until Ake broke the deadlock.

Substitute Alvarez’s strike from outside the box beat Turner, but came back off the post. Jack Grealish picked up the rebound and laid off to Ake, who hit a first-time effort low into the corner.

Elimination gives Arsenal one less distraction in its bid for the title and Arteta hopes to strengthen his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

The London club has been linked with a $74 million move for Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo, but Arteta would not answer specific questions about the player.

“We have been pretty active in the market. We have some necessities,” he said. “If something else is available, the club is willing to try to do it when it is reasonable and hopefully he’s a player that can improve our squad.”