My piece on Wolfsburg and the Kevin De Bruyne saga.
Losing your best player days before the transfer window closes usually means a bad summer. That’s not the case with German club, Wolfsburg.
The Wolves have been in the midst of a resurgence these last few seasons. They finished second place last year, had a German SuperCup win over Bayern Munich to start this season and a return to the Champions League as well. The man who was key to all that success on the pitch was Kevin De Bruyne.
The Belgian attacking midfielder joined from Chelsea midway through 2013-14 season and immediately made a difference. Goals, assists, defense-splitting passes, you name it, De Bruyne did it. In doing so he set himself apart as one of football’s best young talents. It also helped that he was arguably Belgium‘s best player in the 2014 World Cup, even ahead of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
It was inevitable, then, that clubs with cash to burn would come calling.
Bayern Munich, as with any star in the Bundesliga not already on their team, were linked with the player. It was Manchester City, though, who were linked with the player more than any other club during the summer. And so it came to pass that, despite consistent statements of “he’s not for sale” from the Wolfsburg hierarchy, De Bruyne joined City in a deal reportedly worth £55m. It’s the fee Wolfsburg were asking for but it came only three days before the transfer window closed.
What did Wolfsburg do in response?
They simply signed a Champions League winning defender and a World Cup winning midfielder. Bayern Munich’s Dante and Schalke‘s Julian Draxler are the players in question and both improve the squad. You have to wonder if this was Wolfsburg’s plan all along given how quickly both players were signed. String along the cash-rich suitor to raise the price all the while find a replacement, Draxler, and improve the defense with Dante.
Dante and Draxler will undoubtedly help the club domestically and in an interesting Champions League group. Dante will provide experience, quality and even some versatility in his ability to play defensive midfield. Draxler will be a direct replacement for De Bruyne and can also play out wide. More importantly, they each have Bundesliga experience so the club isn’t gambling on the acclimatization of players from abroad.
The slight risk for Wolfsburg where Draxler is concerned is the player’s injury worries during the last few seasons. The former Schalke man has already started this season well though, scoring a goal and leading his club’s attack. When he’s on form he can provide a similar impact to De Bruyne and will be given the freedom to do so.
A look over at Manchester City and you still have question marks with De Bruyne.
De Bruyne left the Premier League before getting a real chance for his skills to be tested in the league. His stint at Wolfsburg shows the talent is there, but the Premier League is a different challenge. The obvious storyline will be his motivation to prove Jose Mourinho wrong after the Portuguese manager claimed, upon his leaving for Wolfsburg, that he needed love. Manuel Pellegrini has proven himself a great manager for playmakers to work with so that’s already a bonus for De Bruyne. Regardless, there are hurdles to overcome. De Bruyne will have to handle life back in Premier League, the adjustment to being the junior playmaker to David Silva and live up to his price tag. All of that will have an effect on how he performs.
De Bruyne may perform well when he puts on a City shirt. He may even be the difference in the club’s bid to retain their title. There’s no need for his former club to worry, though. With two excellent replacements in place, and still some money in reserve from the transfer, Wolfsburg come out winners.