Kevin De Bruyne’s relentless efforts on the pitch for Manchester City have made him so important to Pep Guardiola that the Catalan is wary of granting him the rest he may need.
Belgium international De Bruyne has started all 26 of City’s Premier League matches this season and has covered 288 kilometres in the top flight this season – the 10th greatest distance of any player – and admitted he was feeling like “s***” during the busy campaign.
Guardiola concedes the 26-year-old could likely use a break, but his willingness to work to his maximum on every occasion is valued too highly by the former Bayern Munich boss.
“I don’t have words to express my gratitude as a manager,” said Guardiola.
“My example is words; the players’ examples are the facts and one of the best players we have is the guy who runs the most and fights the most.
“He is an incredible example for the other guys and the players in the academy. He is one of the most talented players I have ever seen in my life and without the ball he is a guy who makes this kind of intensity every three days.
“If he needs the rest, he needs it. It is not just being tired here [legs] it is tired here [mentally]. The Premier League is so demanding with the lack of rest.”
Guardiola outlined that David Silva’s absence due to the premature birth of his son and injuries to Fabian Delph and Ben Foden restricted his chances to leave De Bruyne out.
He said: “In that period [December], I couldn’t give him rest because David had some personal problems, it’s going well with his son but now he’s injured.
“Delph and Foden are injured, that’s why I couldn’t move [the players] a lot. They can come back and I’ll give him some rest.
“He has played a lot of minutes and he deserves some rest but on the other hand he is so important for us. In every game he creates an amount of chances, helps us offensively and defensively – also for the fact that we are there, fighting for important things.
“In that situation, you are not tired. He said, ‘I’m tired’ but if there had been another game in three days he’d have been ready to play.”
Another player to establish himself as a key figure at City this season is goalkeeper Ederson, whose composed nature and quality distribution quickly marked him out as a notable upgrade on Claudio Bravo.
Guardiola considers the Brazilian to be one of the leading keepers in the world and backed him to develop even further.
“We are impressed with the fact he is young and came from Portugal to here. You never know what is going to happen, but immediately he adapted well,” said the Catalan.
“We knew the quality of his passing but it is not just the quality of the pass, it is reading whether you can pass the ball here, here, here or there. That is the most difficult thing and he reads it well.
“The most important thing, from my point of view, is he is so calm. When he concedes a goal he is quiet but if he makes an extraordinary save he is quiet. His reaction is the same. He is stable.
“He is young, he has to improve a lot of things. I think he is one of the best in the world and in the future he will be stronger.”