Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has stood up for his tactical decision to play Manchester City‘s superstar Kevin De Bruyne in a holding midfield role at the World Cup.
Whilst playing in a more attacking position in the Premier Leauge right behind the strikers, which guarantees more goals and assists to his name, in his national team De Bruyne features in front of the defence alongside Tianjin Quanjian midfielder Alex Witsel.
De Bruyne’s change of role has raised a few doubts, considering the vital impact that the 27-year-old has at his club. The fact that De Bruyne is not bagging goals and playing inviting balls to his strikers for fun during the World Cup does not bother boss Martinez, who claims City’s talent still has a massive influence on Belgium’s performances.
In an interview before Friday’s quarter-final clash against Brasil, Martinez said that De Bruyne’s role in the national team ‘has been underrated’ (via Goal).
“Maybe because at club level he’s always at the end of an assist or at the end of a goal and then it’s easy to bring a highlight out of Kevin De Bruyne,” explained the Catalan manager.
De Bruyne impressed his national team manager for his strong personality and maturity, showing that he is a real leader on the pitch for Belgium, particularly in their last match against Japan.
“I think it’s the first time that I’ve seen Kevin growing into a very important player of this group on the pitch in the most important moments,” Martinez said.
“I will always remember there was a moment at 0-2 down against Japan that he’s the one that is giving a bit of composure, a bit of belief to the group and he’s getting everyone to know that we’ve still got time to get back into the game. And I think that’s a role that allows us to be a team.”
Five-time champions Brazil are up next for Belgium in what promises to be a fascinating and unpredictable game, which will determine whether De Bruyne and his teammates can continue their World Cup journey.