Wolfsburg - In an era when two-footed, technically-gifted attacking midfielders with an eye for a killer-pass are the most sought-after yet rarest players on the market, VfL Wolfsburg jumped at the chance to sign up Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne.
Born in Ghent, on 28 June 1991, De Bruyne started out with local side Gent, before being snapped up by Racing Genk in 2005. His progression through the youth system was steady and swift, with the youngster's first professional appearance coming in 2009.
Since then, De Bruyne's career has been a whirlwind of non-stop progression. Apparently unfazed by playing in the top-flight in his homeland at the tender age of 18, the midfielder was soon a regular feature of the Genk first team, for whom he went on to score 16 goals in 92 appearances.
His fearless attacking displays attracted the attention of English side Chelsea FC, who secured the versatile playmaker's services in 2012. Keen for De Bruyne - by now a full Belgian international - to continue his development, the London club agreed to loan him to SV Werder Bremen for the duration of the 2012/13 season.
So impressed was former Green-Whites coach Thomas Schaaf with his summer recruit that he had no doubts about thrusting him into the starting eleven. De Bruyne quickly found his feet in the Bundesliga, repaying Schaaf's faith in his abilities as he featured in all but one of Bremen's league encounters during the 2012/13 campaign, scoring ten goals and providing assists for nine more.
However, despite enjoying what many considered a breakthrough year in North Germany, the youngster struggled to make his mark in Chelsea's star-studded squad upon his return to London. Speaking to Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, he said: "My pre-season was good, my first game too, but I still don't know why I lost my place after the game against Manchester United."
Joining the wolfpack
After registering just one assist in nine appearances in all competitions for the Blues it came as no surprise that De Bruyne sought out regular first-team football in a bid to cement his place in the Belgium squad ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Wolfsburg were happy to oblige, snapping up the versatile playmaker during the 2013/14 winter transfer window.
"For me it was clear from the start that Wolfsburg would be the first people to talk to when Chelsea said I could go," explained De Bruyne, whose goals and assists helped the Wolves qualify for the UEFA Europa League in 2014, and have since turned Dieter Hecking's side into a genuine contender on both the domestic and international circuits.