Kevin De Bruyne, who hasn’t started a Premier League match since August, has recently been urged by both a club teammate and his national team manager to quit Stamford Bridge in January, and on Thursday the Mirror reported that the Spanish capital was a likely destination for him.
During the international break, De Bruyne’s Belgium and Chelsea teammate Eden Hazard told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad (h/t ESPN FC) that “it is better for him to leave” if his playing time didn’t increase, adding: “Playing a World Cup after having not played for a year—it is very difficult. If we want to get the best from Kevin in the future it is better that he leaves.”
Hazard’s “we” quite obviously referred to Belgium, and his words only echoed those of Diables Rouges boss Marc Wilmots, who a day earlier had tried to link De Bruyne with Schalke, as per Goal.com.
“If Kevin asked me, I could only tell him good things about Schalke,” the former Konigsblauen midfielder remarked. “Of course,” he added, “the final decision is up to Chelsea.”
That said, De Bruyne could always request a transfer from the club that purchased his rights from Genk just 10 months ago, and in comments made to Het Laatste Nieuws (h/t The Independent) late last month, he hinted he was already considering his options.
“I know something has to change,” he said. “Sooner or later I will have to play.”
Should he force a move, Atletico Madrid would seem a fine destination.
Presently second in La Liga and just three points back of Barcelona (they lead city rivals Real Madrid by three points), one of the only things Los Colchoneros lack is something Chelsea have in spades: depth.
Central midfielders Tiago and Gabi are both over 30, and should the in-form Koke be deployed more often on the left there would also be an opening on the right-hand flank, where De Bruyne would represent an upgrade on Adrian.
The only question is whether financially challenged Atletico could actually afford him, although the 22-year-old has also been linked with Anderlecht, per the Mirror, and Borussia Dortmund, per the Metro.
But Atletico Madrid would seem to represent the best fit—for the club, for Belgium and for De Bruyne himself.