FA Cup English

Kevin De Bruyne is revitalized by injury lay-off but admits he’s got a lot of catching up to do

Kevin De Bruyne says his five-month injury layoff gave him the rare opportunity for a complete mental and physical “reset” that can be put to good use in Manchester City’s continued hunt for more silverware.

De Bruyne came on as a second-half substitute in his first appearance since the opening day of the season in August City’s 5-0 FA Cup third round win over Huddersfield Town on Sunday.

The Belgium midfielder underwent surgery on a ruptured hamstring and says he had fully optimized usage of the time off to fully recalibrate to ensure he is in peak condition mentally and physically in stepping up for the second half of the campaign as last season’s Treble winners target more silverware.

“It’s not like I needed a break, but I took it and turned a disadvantage into an advantage,” he said.

“When I reflect on my career, playing the last 10 years non-stop with a short break, maybe it was good for me to reset a little bit in a way and take care of myself when it is not really possible during the year.

“I hoped I could work hard and come back in a good way and I feel that I’m doing that, but obviously I need to progress.

“I enjoyed it [the time off] in a way. At the beginning it was a big blow, but I knew I was going to be out for four or five months.”

De Bruyne said the opportunity to spend more time with his wife Michele Lacroix and their three young children, Mason, Rome and Suri, was invaluable.

“Maybe it was good to refresh a little bit − no new hobbies, but it was nice to bring my son and daughter to their practices and see their games, what they do,” he added.

“I could go on holiday, which is never possible normally during the year. On the side, I worked hard also.

“When you have three kids between three and seven [there is] not a lot [you can do] − I’m basically a taxi driver!

“But I enjoyed it. I think they enjoyed that daddy could watch the games and now it will be harder for the missus and everyone to work around the programme.”

De Bruyne disputes suggestions that he was rushed back too soon, albeit admitting the hamstrings in his right leg had been an awful sight to behold.

“Whenever I was training in Japan [on City’s pre-season tour] or for the Community Shield and Burnley, everything was fine,” he said.

“I had three hamstrings in a row, but they were nowhere near the same place. I had so much scar tissue that it could snap at any moment.

“People said I returned too quickly but when you train three weeks in a row without any issue, it was fine. I played against Arsenal for 40 minutes or so but then after Burnley it [surgery] just needed to be done.”

With just two league games this month − Newcastle on Saturday and Burnley on January 31 − plus an FA Cup fourth round tie, De Bruyne says the schedule offers him an opportunity to ease his way back in.

“I felt good [against Huddersfield] so I’m pleased about that, but I’m still nowhere near where I need to be. It’s a good continuation of the process of the last few weeks,” said De Bruyne, who set up Jeremy Doku for City’s fifth goal against Huddersfield.

“There will be moments. At the beginning when I was training I was getting tired, but the last few weeks have been fine and today I feel fine.

“I’m very pleased with the way it went. I feel good, the movements were good, I felt comfortable in what I was doing. That was the only thing I was really looking for.

“If they need me or want to give me minutes that will be the case, but then [there’s] another two weeks before another [league] game so that is a different momentum so we will see how it is.”