Wolfsburg - When VfL Wolfsburg secured the services of in January 2014, never in their wildest dreams did they imagine the kind of impact the young Belgian would have at the Volkswagen Arena.
Exceeding all expectations
Having scored nine and set up a staggering 16 goals in the current Bundesliga campaign, De Bruyne has been the driving force behind Wolfsburg's quest for UEFA Champions League qualification this season. "I'm lost for words to describe Kevin," said Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking after the 23-year-old's latest match-winning contribution in the 3-0 victory over SC Freiburg, adding: "He makes the difference."
With the 2009 champions currently sitting in second in the Bundesliga and still involved both in the UEFA Europa League and the DFB Cup, De Bruyne could prove the key in Wolfsburg's three-pronged push for silverware this season. "He wants to play, score goals and set them up," said Hecking. "He also wants to win and that's precisely the sort of player you need if you want to go a long way in all competitions."
VfL sporting director Klaus Allofs, meanwhile, who masterminded both De Bruyne's move to the Volkswagen Arena as well as his one-year loan spell at SV Werder Bremen two years ago, believes settling in in Wolfsburg has been key to the attacking midfielder's impressive form. "I know how Kevin ticks and I know also how highly he rates what he's got here," explained the 58-year-old.
High praise from Beckenbauer
While enjoying little playing time at former club Chelsea FC, it seems the 2014 World Cup participant has finally found himself a home in Lower Saxony, but even Allofs has been taken by surprise at the speed of De Bruyne's rise to stardom. "We're talking about a player who was not a regular at Chelsea and nobody could have guessed how things would have developed," he said. "We're now talking about a player who's extraordinary."
De Bruyne's Wolfsburg colleagues aren't the only ones who have been taken aback by his scintillating form this season. "He's one of the most prominent players in the Bundesliga right now," said FC Bayern München's honorary president Franz Beckenbauer, hardly able to hide his admiration, after the Wolves' victory over Freiburg.
Wolfsburg's lucky jackpot
'Extraordinary' and 'most prominent' are not just terms restricted to describing the Belgian's Bundesliga performances. De Bruyne, much like his side, has grown into the Europa League, culminating in last week's virtuoso two-goal display against FC Internazionale Milano in the first leg of the Round of 16. That performance, which inspired a 3-1 win, lifted his season tally to five goals and four assists in nine competition appearances.
Not that De Bruyne himself is getting carried away ahead of Thursday's return leg at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, despite the Wolves' two-goal advantage. Despite telling uefa.com that he'd "rather be 3-1 up than 3-1 down", he added that his side must be sure "to finish it" and book a quarter-final slot. Not only one of the world's best young midfielders, but also possessing a mature head on youthful shoulders; as Beckenbauer put it, "in De Bruyne, it seems, Wolfsburg have indeed struck the jackpot".