Kevin De Bruyne reveals Jose Mourinho conversation that ended his Chelsea career
'I said, "I feel like the club doesn’t really want me here. I want to play football. I’d rather you sell me."'
Without doubt, Kevin De Bruyne has established himself as one of the finest players in the Premier League over the last couple of seasons. One of Pep Guardiola's key players at Manchester City, his time at the Etihad has been a far cry from his spell at Chelsea, where he failed to make an impression as a young player.
De Bruyne signed for Chelsea from Genk in January 2012. He was 20, and it was agreed he would remain at the Belgian club for the rest of the 2011-2012 campaign. The next season, Chelsea agreed to loan him to Werder Bremen in Germany before he was eventually told by Jose Mourinho that he would feature at Stamford Bridge at the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
Now, De Bruyne has reflected on his relationship with Mourinho and his short-lived spell with Chelsea in The Players' Tribune. Acknowledging that much has been said and written in the press about his relationship with his former manager, he says that he only ever spoke to him twice.
'The plan was always for me to go on loan for a bit,' he says. 'So I went to Werder Bremen in 2012, and that season went great. When I came back to Chelsea the next summer, a few German clubs wanted to sign me. Klopp wanted me to come to Borussia Dortmund, and they played the kind of football that I enjoy. So I thought maybe Chelsea would let me go.'
This, however, wasn't the case. A text from Mourinho informed him he was part of his plans for the season.
Though De Bruyne admits his form was 'not brilliant', the Belgian international clearly felt it was worthy of a prolonged run in the Chelsea side. This, however, never materialised.
'I started two of the first four games of the season, and I thought I played O.K. Not brilliant, but pretty good.
'After the fourth game, that was it. I was on the bench, and I never really got a chance again. I didn’t get an explanation. I was just out of favour for some reason.'
De Bruyne admits he made some mistakes, meaning that when his next opportunity to play came - in a cup game against Swindon Town - he wasn't in good shape. Mourinho later summoned him to his office in December 2013.
'He had some papers in front of him,' De Bruyne recalls. 'He said, “One assist. Zero goals. Ten recoveries.”
'It took me a minute to understand what he was doing. Then he started reading the stats of the other attacking forwards - Willian, Oscar, (Juan) Mata, (André) Schürrle. And it's like - five goals, 10 assists, whatever.
'Jose was just kind of waiting for me to say something, and finally I said, "But … some of these guys have played 15, 20 games. I’ve only played three. So it’s going to be different, no?"
'It was so strange. We had a bit of a conversation about me going back out on loan. And Mata was also out of favour at the time, so Jose said, "Well, you know, if Mata leaves, then you will be the fifth choice instead of sixth."
'I was completely honest. I said, "I feel like the club doesn’t really want me here. I want to play football. I’d rather you sell me."'
Though De Bruyne was sold to Wolfsburg the next month, he insists he has no problem with the way his career at the London club came to an end.
'I think Jose was a bit disappointed, but to be fair to him, I think he also understood that I absolutely needed to play. So the club ended up selling me, and there was no big problem at all.
'Chelsea got more than double the price they paid for me, and I got into a much better situation at Wolfsburg.'
From there, De Bruyne has never looked back. After impressing during his second spell in Germany, City signed him in the summer of 2015.