LONDON • Bookmakers, pundits and fans are in agreement that Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne is the odds-on favourite for the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award.
But Pep Guardiola feels that despite de Bruyne's scintillating form this season, with seven goals and 14 assists in 27 Premier League games played, he cannot be mentioned in the same breath as perennial Ballon d'Or favourites Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi until he helps City win trophies.
The runaway Premier League leaders kick off a run of four matches in as many competitions today, with a return to Champions League action at Basel in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
When asked about whether de Bruyne could win the prestigious accolade, the City manager said after watching the forward create three assists in their 5-1 league win over Leicester City on Saturday: "No doubt. It's not one game, it's a season every three days, every three games playing that way.
"He knows and everybody knows that to be there, you have to win titles, and titles and titles."
De Bruyne acknowledged that individual honours are a by-product of titles.
"To be fair, when I am busy playing football, I don't care (about that)," the Belgium international said. "I do everything to win titles with the team. What happens after is an extra."
An FA Cup fifth-round tie at Wigan takes place next Monday before Arsenal await in the League Cup final and also the league, where City boast a 16-point lead at the top of the table.
City were boosted yesterday by the return of David Silva, Leroy Sane and Fabian Delph to training ahead of their trip to Basel. Silva's role this year has been limited due to the premature birth of his son and injury, while Delph and Sane have been out since last month.
With the possibility of a first trophy this term in the bag by the time City host the return leg on March 7, Guardiola has changed his tune since describing the prospect of a quadruple as "unreal" earlier in the season.
"We have had a lot of injuries - (Gabriel) Jesus, Benjamin Mendy - but hopefully, we can fight for every game in all competitions," he said.
De Bruyne would not have it any other way.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN
BASEL V MAN CITY
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