Cologne - Although VfL Wolfsburg’s rise to second place in the Bundesliga with a club-record 34 points has been built on contributions from all over the pitch, it has been hard to ignore the performances of Kevin De Bruyne.
After the Matchday 17 home win over 1. FC Köln, the normally reserved Belgian emerged from the home dressing room in a talkative mood. "I’m really tired," began the 23-year-old. "I’ve noticed in the last few games how exhausted I am." The winter will bring some deserved respite for De Bruyne, who, along with team-mate Naldo, has featured in every one of Wolfsburg’s Bundesliga fixtures this campaign.
De Bruyne’s efforts in the Hinrunde have underlined his qualities. With ten assists to his name, he leads the Bundesliga standings; only Dariuz Wosz in 1996/97 with VfL Bochum 1848 (11), has ever laid on more goals at the halfway mark of a season. Indeed, in the past 17 games, De Bruyne has already beaten his own personal best-mark for an entire season, improving on the nine he recorded in 2012/13 with SV Werder Bremen.
Although his assists have been vital to Wolfsburg’s rise, the 30-time international has also made himself key to Dieter Hecking’s style of play in other ways. His speed and close control make the Wolves extremely dangerous in transitional phases, so important in the modern game, while his dribbling can be unplayable. Additionally, for a side that has scored 12 of its 33 goals from set pieces, De Bruyne’s delivery is a further weapon.
Leading by example
Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs is under no illusions as to why De Bruyne has developed into one of the Bundesliga’s outstanding attackers. "He feels at home here," Allofs explained. "He knows that we’re building a team around him." Such comfort has been reflected not just in De Bruyne's creative ability but also his finishing. With three Bundesliga goals to his name, as well as a memorable volley in the UEFA Europa League against LOSC Lille, the young Belgian's quiet will to win has dragged his side over the line on several occasions.
After a Herculean Hinrunde, De Bruyne has few plans for the winter break. "I’ll spend a few days at home in Belgium," he added after the Köln victory. "We have to rest and recover some strength for the second half of the season," he continued, and the Bundesliga’s assist king would be well advised to do so: league leaders FC Bayern München visit the hitherto-unbreachable Volkswagen Arena on Matchday 18 to begin the Rückrunde with a bang.
Check out De Bruyne's Matchday 10 performance against VfB Stuttgart which won him bundesliga.com's Player of the Week award courtesy of the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: