City are on a remarkable winning run at the moment, grabbing victory in their last 18 games in succession in the Premier League; De Bruyne's midfield mastery has been at the heart of their stunning displays.
Speaking about City, Xavi hailed Pep Guardiola's side, but he reserved special praise for De Bruyne, per David Anderson of the Daily Mirror.
"Pep's teams win as teams, but even the most special sides need that player to look to when they need something special," he said. "At Barcelona we had it with Messi and this team Manchester City have it with De Bruyne. Every time he has the ball, you get the feeling that he is going to do something special with it."
After De Bruyne turned in another imperious performance against Newcastle United on Thursday, Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph suggested the Belgium international can eventually surpass Messi as one of the world's best:
Guardiola said earlier in the campaign that after Messi, De Bruyne is the best player in the game, per Simon Stone of BBC Sport. "Messi is on a table on his own," he said. "No-one else is allowed. But the table beside, Kevin can sit there."
The City man has been remarkable at the hub of the City team this season, continuing to amaze week after week with his playmaking skills.
De Bruyne has six goals and nine assists already this term in the Premier League. In a deeper midfield role, the 26-year-old gets on the ball often, knits City's attacks together and produces some stunning pieces of passing.
While he's yet to reach the levels Messi has regularly scaled throughout his career, there's no doubt De Bruyne is edging closer. The former Wolfsburg man has added consistency to his game and has thrived when tasked with taking on more responsibility.
Former Sunderland goalkeeper and football writer David Preece believes teams will have to pay special attention to De Bruyne:
David Preece @davidpreece12
There’s the conundrum of City having many attacking outlets but at this moment in time surely you’re better off trying to man mark De Bruyne so the game is 10 v 10. City still brilliant without him but weaker too. Has so much space to deliver forward passes its suicide to let him
It's the type of treatment world-class players get and something Messi has had to cope with down the years.
The Argentina man continues to thrive. When he was working under Guardiola he was used in a central position from which he could roam, and while his role has changed in recent years, Messi still finds a way to stamp his authority on games.
This term he has been key to his side putting some distance between their rivals at the top of the table. In 17 appearances, he has scored 15 goals and grabbed six assists.
De Bruyne, given he plays deeper, won't be able to match Messi in terms of goals and assists. But if he continues to put in game-winning displays on such a consistent basis, comparisons like this will remain.
The Belgian needs some silverware to show for his efforts, having won just one League Cup during his time at the Etihad Stadium. With a 15-point lead established at the top of the Premier League, there's no doubt he's on the right track.