Kevin De Bruyne can reach the rarefied levels of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, according to Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.
Manchester City midfielder De Bruyne has been in stunning form for the Premier League leaders this season and opened the scoring in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Arsenal as part of another influential display.
Club manager Pep Guardiola has richly praised De Bruyne’s performances and abilities, but sought to play down any comparisons with Messi.
Martinez, who will hope the 26-year-old can spearhead Belgium’s bid for World Cup glory in Russia next year, showed no such reluctance when discussing the player with ESPN FC.
“Absolutely [he can match Messi and Ronaldo],” he said, ahead of the home friendly matches against Mexico and Japan.
“I think when you see the players that you mention [Messi and Ronaldo], obviously you [have to] become consistent with your performances in order to reach that level. That happens over the course of a few seasons.
“The level of performance that Kevin is having this season [and] the level of performance he had last campaign shows you that he has the potential of reaching those highs. And there are not many players that you could say that about.”
9 PL wins in a row! pic.twitter.com/hKC2dmnzxx
— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) November 5, 2017
Former Everton boss Martinez feels Guardiola’s influence upon De Bruyne is clear to see.
“I think that you can see that he’s got a real special connection [with Guardiola],” said Martinez. “When a manager and a player hit the same way of thinking they become almost a manager on the pitch.
“I think Kevin De Bruyne’s performances are exactly what the manager wants.
“[Guardiola] gets the best out of Kevin and Kevin is a player that is ready now to take that role and make a big, big difference on the pitch.
“When you get a new manager coming into a club with new ideas, you have to think and the players get pushed out of their comfort zone and I think Kevin De Bruyne has taken that and is using it to take his game to a different level.”
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