Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will be sidelined potentially for up to four months because of a recurrence of his hamstring injury, a huge blow to the team’s ambitions of retaining the Premier League and Champions League.
City manager Pep Guardiola cut a downcast figure as he gave the prognosis on De Bruyne and said a decision was yet to be made about whether the Belgium captain requires surgery.
An operation would keep him out for “three or four months,” Guardiola said.
“I have to say, the injury for Kevin is a sore blow for us, so he’s a big loss,” Guardiola said at a news conference ahead of the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla taking place in Greece on Wednesday.
“Kevin has specific qualities that you can lose for one game, two games, but for a long time is really, really tough for us.”
De Bruyne came off with the hamstring injury midway through the first half of City’s opening Premier League game, a 3-0 win at Burnley on Friday.
It is the same problem that forced the 32-year-old De Bruyne to be substituted during the Champions League final win against Inter Milan in June.
He did not play a single minute of preseason and made his return as a second-half substitute in the Community Shield on August 6, when City lost to Arsenal in a penalty shootout.
De Bruyne was a surprise starter against Burnley and captained his team. He lasted 23 minutes at Turf Moor, where seemingly out of nothing he signaled to the bench that he had felt something.
Asked if the injury was down to bad luck or De Bruyne returning too soon, Guardiola answered back: “Give me 25 days of preparation and he will not be injured.
“Before I take the decision, I spoke to the doctors, the physios, with him and he told me, ‘I feel good, I feel good.’ So, I said, ’OK, it’s better to start then halftime (take him off). But unfortunately it happened.”
De Bruyne looks set to miss City’s entire Champions League group stage and potentially December’s Club World Cup on top of domestic matters.
It could force City, which has seen Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez depart this offseason, into the transfer market. The team has been linked with a move for West Ham’s Brazil midfielder Lucas Paqueta.
In the meantime, Phil Foden looks primed to step up in De Bruyne’s attacking midfield role, even if they are two very different players.
“We will see,” Guardiola said. “After what happened, we haven’t talked with Txiki (Begiristain, City’s sporting director).
The severity of De Bruyne’s injury came as a surprise to City teammate Rodri.
“Well, I didn’t know it was that much, honestly,” he said. “What can I say? I mean, he is one of the most important players of the club. For sure we are going to miss him a lot. We are going to try to support him in this bad moment. No one wants injuries.
“I saw him the other day and he was positive, he wants to come back (quickly). He’s an experienced player. He knows he doesn’t have to run fast to come back. He has to recover — that’s the most important part.”
City will be playing for the first time in the Super Cup, a match between the winners of last season’s Champions League and Europa League being held this year at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus.
Sevilla will be playing in the Super Cup for the seventh time and has only won it once, back in 2006 against Barcelona.
Midfielder Fernando, a former City player, has been left out of the squad because of a virus. Defenders Marcao and Tanguy Nianzou were already missing.
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