"Surely one of the best players Wolfsburg have ever had", Kevin De Bruyne's performances have been key to VfL Wolfsburg's exceptional start to the season.
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VFL Wolfsburg are in fine fettle. After initially struggling, they are now well placed to progress from UEFA Europa League Group H, and Dieter Hecking's team are also FC Bayern München's closest rivals in the Bundesliga, a run of six straight league wins preceding the weekend's 3-2 loss at FC Schalke 04. When searching for a reason for Wolfsburg's success so far this season, Kevin De Bruyne is a good place to start.
Wolfsburg are reported to have paid Chelsea FC €20m for the Belgian international in January. The 23-year-old has since proved his critics wrong. Before the international break he set up both goals in a 2-0 defeat of Hamburger SV, taking him to nine assists in 11 league games this term. He has a further three assists and three goals in four UEFA Europa League fixtures.
"Maybe things are going a bit better for me than last season, but that is the same with other players," said De Bruyne. "I am young, I can still improve. When I play football, I always enjoy myself."
Hecking is certainly feeling the benefit of De Bruyne's good form. "In a team unit, he is one of those who can make a difference," he said. VfL general manager Klaus Allofs, who earlier brought De Bruyne in on loan while he was working in a similar capacity at SV Werder Bremen, and was a driving force behind the player's latest transfer, added: "The way Kevin is performing is extraordinary. There is no reason to talk this down."
Wolfsburg defender Marcel Schäfer was equally upbeat about De Bruyne's recent displays: "Kevin is surely one of the best players Wolfsburg have ever had." For his part, De Bruyne often appears modest, perhaps even shy, but his ambitions are anything but. "I am a winner – I am here to win every game," the one-time KRC Genk prodigy said. "We want to be contenders in every competition."
Victory against Group H leaders Everton FC on matchday five would bring a significant next step – qualification for the round of 32. Wolfsburg will be looking for revenge for their 4-1 defeat in the first round of group stage fixtures, with Hecking certain De Bruyne will be ready to play his part, despite a busy recent schedule. "He is not really a champion of training – he just wants to play," said the coach with a smile.