Yet again, Manchester City talisman Kevin de Bruyne showed why he is the brightest jewel in the gem-decked crown of league monarch City and that the news of his losing sparkle was grossly exaggerated. There were two standout moments of pure trickery, sublime technique and divine vision in the 4-0 demolition of Bournemouth.
The first was a goal from outside of his foot, one of the most difficult strikes in football. Picking the ball 30 yards from goal, drifting away from the defenders, he reached the edge of the box, nearly unchallenged. Erling Haaland waiting on the other side of the flank for a killer pass from the Belgian. But he had other intentions. He jinked past a couple of defenders, stopped, surveyed the field with a quick sideways glance, realised that Haaland was probably in an offside position, which he was, and waved a shot into the bottom corner with the outside of his right foot with pinpoint precision.
The more you watch it, the more mystifying it gets. Had it started to straighten any earlier, it would have been intercepted by the keeper; any later and it would have hit the post or eluded it. The ball drifted away before it straightened. The pace on the ball was sumptuous—he did not over-hit the ball, but infused just the right amount of pace to beat the keeper. There probably are not too many better judges of the perfect weight you need to impart on the ball. The technique was immaculate, too, his left arm pointing sideways and his body falling slightly to the left as the ball was creamed off his right foot.
Goals from outside of the foot are rare because most daren’t use it, for fear of mistiming the connection and blasting the ball into another postcode. And you will be heavily criticised if you bungle it—such goals are, by their very nature, often quite ostentatious.
His brilliance was not yet finished. He split the Bournemouth defence on numerous instances with the sharpness of an Obsidian knife, made from volcanic glass and slipped a delicious pass, past two converging defenders, to Phil Foden for the third goal. Watching him glide and weave past the defenders it was clear that he is back to his best after it had seemed that a relentless treadmill of games and injuries had taken its toll on his game. Praises flew in from manager Pep Guardiola: “Kevin was a really good player before our arrival, he’s good with us and will be good after us. There was no space with this type of shot and it was an incredible goal.”