Kevin De Bruyne is a player who now finds himself in a very peculiar situation. To some he's a prized jewel within a Chelsea setup that finally has its returned king, Jose Mourinho, back in charge. Yet to others he's no more than excess skill in a side jam-packed with abundant talent.
As such, the news that the young Belgian may be on his way back to the German Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen interested in a deal this January, as Kicker reported on Thursday, comes with mixed feelings. Chelsea may be losing a young, unused talent and Leverkusen could well be gaining a game-changing star.
According to the article in the German twice-weekly magazine, Chelsea would be willing to part with the player for a full transfer of around €15 million or an 18-month loan move with an option to buy at the end of the deal. Such a move is also reported to go through in next month's transfer window.
For a club like Leverkusen, who currently sit second in the Bundesliga with a tricky last 16 tie in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain on the horizon, a player like De Bruyne offers a number of advantages.
For a start, he's exactly what Leverkusen need.
As we saw against Eintracht Frankfurt last Sunday—in which Sami Hyypia's side succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at home—the high-flying life of a top German and European side is beginning to take its toll on this team, and a player like De Bruyne, who can play across the midfield, sounds incredibly valuable.
The initial thought of where such a player would fit into the side is obviously on one of the wings, where he would partner Heung-Min Son behind Stefan Kiessling. Yet De Bruyne's best position is through the middle of the park, and that is where he could potentially be more useful for Leverkusen.
The Factory Squad already have an excellent front line—when Sidney Sam is fit—yet the quality takes a significant nosedive when we get to the midfield trio of Lars Bender, Stefan Reinartz and Gonzalo Castro.
Among these players, Bender is arguably the only one capable of carrying a top-four side in the Bundesliga, and it's beside the German international at the expense of either Castro or Reinartz, that De Bruyne could truly revitalise this Leverkusen side after the winter break.
Of course, the most appealing factor of a De Bruyne acquisition is the fact that he has quite an outstanding record in the Bundesliga within his relatively short career.
Werder Bremen is where the youngster made a name for himself last season, scoring 10 goals and nine assists in just 33 league games, as he dragged the side from the clutches of relegation with just three points to spare. Yet while Bremen stumbled through the postseason licking their wounds, De Bruyne returned to London with a whole host of potential suitors fighting for his name.
Dortmund looked as though they were at the front of the queue, with Leverkusen in close pursuit; yet when Mourinho finally announced that he had plans for the midfielder, all bets were off.
Aside from his unquestionable talent, the most apparent commodity that the young playmaker has in abundance is his incredible self-belief. It's what made him stand out in Belgium as a 20-year-old at Genk, it's what enabled him to take control of that Bremen side despite just arriving in the summer and it's what told him to return to Chelsea and fight for a spot in that starting 11.
Yet as we approach the halfway point in the season, De Bruyne's chances at the Premier League side number at just six, and with every passing week that January transfer window looks more and more appealing for a player who clearly has plenty to offer any side.
As the revealing Kicker article headlined today, "Bayer and de Bruyne in the final phase of Poker."
A bet that Leverkusen look desperate to make, and a risk that this young star may have to take if he wants to continue his rise to stardom.