Kevin De Bruyne says he understands why team-mate Raheem Sterling is frustrated with his situation at Manchester City but insists that squad rotation is part of life at a top club.
Sterling admitted last week that he is open to leaving City – and possibly the Premier League – after falling out of favour under Pep Guardiola.
The 26-year-old starred for England during their run to the Euro 2020 final in the summer but has started just five matches this season for City, prompting him to admit that he is unhappy with his current circumstances at the club.
Asked about Sterling’s comments ahead of City’s Champions League clash away to Club Brugge on Tuesday evening, De Bruyne said: “Obviously rotation is important because we are playing four competitions. It’s a tough task sometimes.
“But I understand the frustration because I’m a player and some players need more rhythm to get into it. Maybe Raz is somebody who needs that more. I’m personally a player who needs that also.
“Sometimes it’s tough to play one game, one game not, but obviously it’s the manager who has to make choices. It’s very hard.
“We have 22, 23 internationals who are unbelievable, so whoever you pick, you will be right a lot of the time.
“Whenever the team plays good, there’s not a lot of things you can say as a player. But we also try to help each other – that’s the only thing we can do as players.”
City go into the game against Brugge in third place in Group A – one point behind their opponents – following their defeat by Paris Saint-Germain on matchday two.
Guardiola’s side reached the final last season, where they were beaten by Chelsea, but De Bruyne revealed he has limited memories of the game after sustaining facial fractures in a second-half collision with Blues defender Antonio Rudiger.
“I remember some chances – there were not a lot – but I remember some in the first half, and the goal,” he said. “But after the collision I don’t remember a lot.
“I don’t remember how I got to the hospital or the night itself. I remember going back in the morning to the team hotel, about 10am and still in my Man City kit.
“It’s sport, it happens. It’s not the best thing that ever happened but you get on with it.”
Despite enduring a painful evening in that final, De Bruyne’s efforts for City and Belgium during 2021 were enough to earn him a place on the 30-man shortlist for this season’s male Ballon d’Or award.
But the 30-year-old is firm in who he believes should win the prize, saying: “I think if I have to choose personally, I’m going to look at a two-year period because obviously we didn’t have one [last year].
“I would choose [Robert] Lewandowski for what he has done in the last two years goalscoring-wise with Bayern [Munich].”
Pep unsure on Ederson, Jesus involvement
Ederson and Gabriel Jesus will be available for City when they take on Brugge having flown direct to Belgium after playing for Brazil in a World Cup Qualifier last Thursday, but Guardiola refused to say whether either would feature.
The duo were unavailable for the win over Burnley on Saturday after arriving in Belgium early, although it did remove the need for them to quarantine upon arrival in the UK as they did not arrive from South America.
Both Ederson and Jesus have been training in Belgium ahead of Tuesday’s game, but Guardiola said: “We will join them tonight [Monday] in the hotel and tomorrow they will join the preparations – maybe play, maybe not.
“The day after we come back to Manchester in the normal routine.
“With Gabriel and Eddie, we are together four, five years, so they don’t need special things to be integrated.
“We will talk to them, see how they feel – I am pretty sure they will feel good. They trained one or two days there with our trainers.”
A victory on Tuesday would see City jump ahead of Brugge in the race for qualification for the Champions League last 16, but Guardiola was keen to warn his side of the threats posed by the Belgian champions.
“They are a top side,” he said. “What we have seen is the physicality. They know exactly what they have to do. An aggressive team with a lot of quality up front.
“We go there with four games left and 12 points to fight for to qualify for the last 16. Tomorrow we will try to win – this is the target.
“We will have a plan. The mentality will be the same. Hopefully we can make them adjust as much as possible, control the game and get a good result.”