It has widely been assumed that for all of Jose Mourinho's successes in the Premier League, he may miss out on the title this season as a result of a huge mistake he made years ago: allowing Kevin De Bruyne to leave Chelsea.
The Belgian has established himself as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League since he signed with City from Wolfsburg, and this season, is increasingly carving himself out as the best player in the league.
This isn't a good look for Mourinho, who sees his main title rivals dancing to the beat of a player he deemed not good enough for Chelsea. The Guardian yesterday ran a terrific profile of De Bruyne, written by Belgian journalist Kristof Terreur, which sheds light on Mourinho's decision to allow De Bruyne leave Stamford Bridge. It appears that it is perhaps unfair to lay all the blame at Mourinho's door.
Initially, in 2013, Mourinho blocked his exit from Chelsea when De Bruyne was subject to interest from Jurgen Klopp, who Terreur says bombarded him with calls and messages when he was coaching Dortmund. They had agreed personal terms, but Mourinho refused to allow such a talented player leave the club.
This changed, however, and ultimately left a year later for Wolfsburg having been loaned to Werder Bremen the season previous. De Bruyne pushed for a transfer with first-team opportunities limited, and relations soured with Mourinho when the manager publicly criticised his attitude in training after a rare appearance against Swindon.
So as De Bruyne pushed for a move, he and his representatives met with Mourinho. Here's what happened next, in De Bruyne's own words:
He showed us the stats of all attacking midfielders: assists, goals, pass percentage, decisive actions, dribbles. He wanted to prove that I didn’t perform at the same level as the others. I answered him: ‘Sorry, that’s not logical. I’ve played fewer games. How can you compare us?’ That wasn’t fair. Mourinho told me things about competition, training hard, there’s always a chance that you’ll play.
He also made it clear that he wasn’t keen on letting me go, even not on loan – ‘you are a good player’. I’ve told him that I had a feeling that I would never get a fair chance. That’s when the club started looking at a transfer too.
So while Mourinho is largely fingered with blame for allowing him to leave, it is slightly unfair to lay it all upon him. Mourinho did want to keep De Bruyne, but it seems the club worked in the Belgian's favour in this instance. What Mourinho does have to face up to, however, is that he created conditions which De Bruyne did not want to be part of.
The full piece is highly recommended reading.
See Also: Watch: Carragher & Neville Tear Into Marko Arnautovic After Dismal Brighton Showing