Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has had the opportunity to work with and manage two of the world's most talented footballers in Lionel Messi and Kevin De Bruyne, and the Catalan tactician reckons the latter can challenge the former for the coveted Ballon d'Or title … if he can deliver silverware, too.
De Bruyne has been a sensation at Manchester City since joining out of Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in 2015, recording 17 assists and 11 goals in 37 matches in all competitions for the Premier League leader so far this season.
But with Messi and his rival Cristiano Ronaldo still ranking as favourites among the elites in the beautiful game, De Bruyne's opportunity to win the Ballon d'Or trophy – given to the best player of any given year – may be somewhat limited. Either Messi or Ronaldo has won the award in each of the last 10 years, taking five apiece and leaving little for the rest of the world's greats.
Still, Guardiola believes De Bruyne possesses all the qualities needed to challenge the two for the honour.
"No doubt," Guardiola said of De Bruyne's chances, as quoted by Sky Sports. "He is not (just doing it in) one game. It's the whole season, every three days playing that way. Every three days.
"But he knows and everyone knows, to be there you have to win titles – and titles and titles, especially one. But the way he's played, it's difficult to find one (better) in Europe."
Related – Aguero salutes City's assist machine: 'Luckily De Bruyne is playing for us'
One of those titles the club is chasing is the UEFA Champions League, which Manchester City has not yet won. Luckily, the club has been drawn favourably with FC Basel in the Round of 16, setting the stage for an easier route into the final eight than many of Europe's other giants.
That's also the one title Guardiola figures is a prerequisite for consideration.
"You have to be there in the latter stages," Guardiola said of the Champions League as it relates to De Bruyne's chances of winning the individual accolade. "Without the latter stages, you will not be nominated."
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