Kevin De Bruyne reflected on his best title yet after helping Manchester City to their fourth Premier League success in five seasons.
The Belgian playmaker was City’s star man as they held off the challenge of Liverpool in a thrilling run-in before completing the job with a dramatic comeback victory over Aston Villa on Sunday.
That De Bruyne ended the campaign widely and comfortably regarded as City’s player of the year speaks volumes for his inspirational qualities, considering that the first half of his campaign was marred by fitness problems.
His issues began when he suffered a broken nose and eye socket in last year’s Champions League final.
That delayed his entrance for Belgium at Euro 2022 and he subsequently picked up an ankle injury. After attempting to play on in the tournament he was not fully fit by the start of the new season.
As a result his form in the opening months was inconsistent and, to compound matters, his recovery was hampered when he contracted coronavirus before Christmas.
With all that taken into account, De Bruyne feels his latest triumph was especially satisfying.
“For me, to be honest, with how I felt at the beginning of the year, this title is by far the best one out of the four,” said the 30-year-old, who scored 11 goals in his last 15 games of the season in all competitions.
“I came back with a lot of pain in my ankle and it took me two to three months to come back.
“I had a tough time physically and mentally and I admit that. So, for me, this is so sweet, the way I came back this season is amazing. I am very happy and I am so proud.”
City needed to come from 2-0 down to claim the victory that saw them pip Liverpool by just one point.
Goals from Matty Cash and Philippe Coutinho stunned the home side at the Etihad Stadium but three goals in the space of five minutes – two from Ilkay Gundogan either side of a Rodri strike – turned the game around.
De Bruyne said: “I think it is special because of the way we have had to do it against a team like Liverpool. They push us so much to the limit.
“They don’t make it easy because they get 90-95 points every year, so we have to do this every single time. It is hard and it is emotional.
“Obviously there was a little moment of doubt (at 2-0) but then it was all or nothing, just all-out attack.
“I don’t think Aston Villa knew what was coming and we were just attacking and attacking.
“We went and we showed that we can score and it makes it even better now.”