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Kevin De Bruyne vs. Jose Mourinho: The final word

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One thing you learn very quickly after even just a decent amount of football media exposure is that there is very little room for middle ground.  A player is either great or terrible, a manager either brilliant or worthless, a team either the best or the worst.  One week they'll be winning the league, the next they will be a disgrace to the shirt.  We look to assign fault for decisions to single individuals in an organization with multiple hierarchical levels of decision-making and several checks and balances on those (the owner himself notwithstanding).  We look to blame single players for conceded goals in a sport that's in tremendously large part about controlling space before, behind, and between teammates.  The glory goes to the goalscorer when a goal created purely out of individual enterprise is fairly rare.  And so on and so forth.

When it comes to the issue of Kevin De Bruyne's Chelsea career — if we can call six months and nine appearances in a blue shirt a "career" — and why it didn't quite work out for him, it's either his fault or Mourinho's fault, it was either good business (profit!) or the worst of all the worst decisions (well would you look at him now!).  The truth, the real truth, of course lies in the middle.  But the real truth is boring.  The real truth contains no Emenalo snakes or Hazard rats, for example.  The real truth has shades of grey and with shades of grey we cannot assign blame just to one party.  Shades of grey takes effort and nuance and attention, and there's simply no time or the audience for that (instead, transfer rumors!).

In fact, I really thought we were done with all this long ago — Kevin's interviews when he joined Manchester City, combined with Mourinho's words over the years gave us the whole picture already I thought — but with Chelsea a non-factor in the run-in, we've got to talk about something on the occasion of the New Evil Money Derby under the Saturday Night Lights.  I'm not going to link anything specific; all major and minor outlets at least touched on this in some capacity.

De Bruyne's latest words themselves have been spun several different ways, but it basically boils down to this:  Mourinho's particular approach to De Bruyne (and, in a similar fashion, to Lukaku) was wrong.  Whether the blame for that belongs to the coach for not tailoring (or even wanting to tailor for whatever reason) his methods to the player's needs or to the player for failing to cope with them is entirely up to you.  The truth, as ever, lies somewhere in the middle.

All of the following are (probably) true:  De Bruyne wanted to play more and be important.  Mourinho was unfair and did not play him enough.  De Bruyne was unmotivated.  Mourinho was a harsh motivator and wanted competition for places.  De Bruyne didn't train to the manager's liking.  Mourinho's demands didn't mesh with De Bruyne's best assets.  The relationship between player and manager broke down.  De Bruyne wanted out.  Mourinho tried to get him to stay.  De Bruyne was having none of that.  All final transfer decisions were approved by the Board.  The End.

"Chelsea wanted to loan me out, even wanted me to stay, but I had enough of it. I wanted to leave."

-Kevin De Bruyne; source: Telegraph

It's been two years since Chelsea sold Kevin De Bruyne to Wolfsburg, mostly due to the incompatibility between the future £50m-man and the greatest manager this club has ever known.  We can regret the chain of events that led to that sale all we want, we can blame whoever we'd like — none of that matters.  What matters is that De Bruyne is with City, while Chelsea won a title and then promptly threw it all away.  And that the two teams will meet for the final time this season today.  And that De Bruyne will probably score and have a great game because a) he's a great player and full of confidence at the moment and because b) of course he will.

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