Pep Guardiola offered glowing praise of Kevin De Bruyne but congratulated Jordan Henderson, the man who pipped the Manchester City midfielder to the Football Writers’ Association’s (FWA) Footballer of the Year award.
Henderson captained Liverpool to the Premier League title and earned more than a quarter of the FWA votes as a result.
De Bruyne – enjoying another sterling campaign at City – was among the closest contenders, and his contributions were acknowledged by Guardiola in a news conference ahead of the campaing-closing clash with Norwich City.
“[De Bruyne] speaks for himself with what he gives to our team and to the Premier League,” the manager said. “It is not necessary to say what a fantastic player he is.
“At the same time, congratulations to the Liverpool captain for the award – he is a really good player.”
De Bruyne could catch Thierry Henry’s season record of 20 Premier League assists on Sunday, a tally he stands one shy of as things stand.
Guardiola added: “He enjoys to make assists. I would love for Kevin to score goals but he enjoys making assists too.
“I think in the last period he is enjoying taking free-kicks and penalties and taking this responsibility.
“The numbers are incredible – not just this season but also the year when we won 100 points. He was incredible and I will never forget how he played when we achieved this incredible milestone.”
De Bruyne has been a key figure at the Etihad Stadium since his 2015 arrival, but he may need to be even more influential next season as captain David Silva departs.
“We will see [if he becomes the leader],” Guardiola said. “The players make these roles on and off the pitch – it depends on what they want, not the manager.
“I think these things are won with the respect on and off the pitch. You can’t assign these roles. It comes naturally.”
Silva is set to make his final Premier League appearance, and Guardiola said of his skipper: “[He is] extraordinary, the amount of games, the huge quality he’s played with, the titles he helped [to win].
“He is another player alongside six or seven players who made this club what it is now.”