Imagine an orchestra without its conductor.

Chances are, the musicians would play their instruments and still produce a more than acceptable performance, but people would leave thinking that it might have been even better with the creative lead in place.

The literal description for the conductor’s role is “to interpret the score that the orchestra is performing, set the tempo, and arrange it through gestures so that the musicians understand it perfectly.”

We are, of course, talking about the absence of Kevin De Bruyne from mid-August to early January.


Our Belgian maestro limped off after just 23 minutes in the Blues’ opening Premier League fixture at Burnley – not before he’d contributed in Erling Haaland’s opening goal – as his troublesome hamstring issue struck again.

So damaged was the muscle, that Kevin underwent major surgery to try and correct the issue, with both the player and the Club well aware that would mean a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

It was a massive blow to a side who were still coming down from the warm glow of an incredible Treble success – of which De Bruyne’s contribution was off the charts.

In 2022/23, De Bruyne featured in 49 games, scored 10 goals and assisted 31 for his team-mates.

31 assists.

That is simply irreplaceable and yet the Blues had to find a way of filling that sizeable void.

Undoubtedly, Phil Foden stepped up to the plate, moving into a more central role with devastating effect, and others took the baton as City began the defence of the three titles.

Erling Haaland still scored goals with the Norwegian bagging 22 going into the New Year, though he had found the net 33 times by that point the season before.

It’s fair to say our big No.9’s almost telepathic understanding with Kevin meant an inevitable reduction in opportunities.

A foot injury then sidelined Haaland for two months from early to December until the last day of January, meaning that City had only been able to name Erling and KDB in the same starting XI just once going into the seventh month of the campaign.

It is something that is perhaps overlooked by those outside the Club that these two world class footballers did not play together for two thirds of the campaign.

De Bruyne’s long absence, however, was coming to an end.

He was named as a sub against Sheffield United and when he climbed off the bench to warm-up early on in the second half, the reception was as stirring as it was emotional as more than 50,000 City fans stood, applauded and sang his name in a show of appreciation that will no doubt stay with the player for the rest of his career and beyond.

In our next game against Huddersfield Town, he received a similar reception as he came on as a sub, and took just moments to claim his first assist of the season with a delicate chip into the middle that Jeremy Doku volleyed home.

That had been an impressive cameo in itself, but away to Newcastle, KDB showed the rest of the Premier League what they’d been missing.

Trailing 2-1 at St James’ Park, De Bruyne replace Bernardo on 69 minutes and four minutes and 35 seconds later, his precisely placed low shot into the bottom left corner of the Magpies’ net had put City level.

Then, a minute into added time, he sent a sumptuous lofted pass into the box was taken by Oscar Bobb who jinked past and prodded home the winner.

It had taken Kevin approximately 25 minutes to score, assist and inspire the Blues to a crucial 3-2 win.

From there on, KDB was back.

In the 24 games he featured in up until the final day of the campaign, he scored six goals and created 17 more.

His two goals away at Crystal Palace also made him the first City midfielder to reach 100 goals in all competitions since the great Colin Bell.

And as the Blues claimed an historic fourth consecutive Premier League title, De Bruyne’s stats were again outstanding.

With Kevin in the side, Pep Guardiola’s side took 48 out of a possible 54 points, compared to 43 from 60 without him.

His return could not have been better timed and his contribution, yet again, was immense.


For once, not a memorable passage of play.

Not the stunning header at Brighton, or the thumping equaliser against Real Madrid or THAT pass for Oscar Bobb, but a simple jog down the touchline and a reception that will never be forgotten as the City fans welcomed back their idol after almost five months out.

2023/24 stats (all comps)

Games played: 26
Games started: 20
Minutes played: 1749
Goals: 6
Assists: 17
Goals + assists: 23
Games won: 20
Games drawn: 5
Games lost: 1
Win percentage: 76.9%

KDB view

(following his St James’ Park match-winning cameo)
“I enjoyed myself. It was crazy. I missed this. I had a big injury and I needed the time. I think it was more willpower than anything else.”

Pep on KDB

“The numbers, presence, consistency have been amazing. He is one of the best players in the history of Man City. The goals, assists, the lot. What can I say?”