Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea didn’t make a big mistake in selling Kevin De Bruyne to Wolfsburg in 2014 as there were no guarantees the Belgian would deliver on his vast potential at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues signed De Bruyne from Genk in January 2012 but it wasn’t until the 2013/14 campaign that he was incorporated into the club’s first-team squad. Jose Mourinho was in charge of Chelsea that season and quickly decided the midfielder wasn’t ready for the demands of Premier League football.
De Bruyne was sold to Bundesliga side Wolfsburg in January 2014 for £18million. A little more than 18 months later, the Belgium international was signed by Manchester City for £50million and has gone from strength to strength.
Tomorrow afternoon, De Bruyne will be hoping to win his third Premier League title with City. Chelsea can, at least temporarily, stop that.
In the Blues starting XI at the Etihad is likely to be Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. The German duo arrived for big fees last summer and have needed time to adjust to the demands of Premier League football.
They have received the patience De Bruyne was never given. Yet Tuchel believes Chelsea shouldn’t rue letting the 29-year-old leave Stamford Bridge.
He said: “I know you can get caught up in these thoughts that it was maybe a big mistake to let him [De Bruyne] go but you never know because you don’t know what might have happened if he didn’t change club and go back to Germany from Chelsea.
“Maybe he needed it at that time: a different league, a different challenge to now be at the best level he’s ever reached. He’s so influential at City and is even the captain of this amazing and so successful team.
“You never know, maybe it was exactly the right thing for him. Maybe he would’ve taken the same route if he’d stayed and fought his way through but it’s hard to tell.
“This league here, because you’ve drawn a comparison to Kai [Havertz] and Timo [Werner’s] situation, either you do it or you don’t. It’s as simple as that. This league is the best league to do it or not do it.
“It challenges every player and coach at the highest level in football and you have only two possibilities: you step up and adapt or you don’t. And if you don’t you don’t make it in this league.
“This is why I am happy that Timo and Kai stepped out of their comfort zone, took this adventure and a huge challenge to come to England, go abroad, the hardest league, a tough club with a real winning mentality, one where it’s not about second or third place.
“This is bravery and the right step to bring out the very best of them. It’s very good because the league demands it, the challenge of the league demands it. It sharpens their character and mentality. This is what we can see. They are still on their way, they are young and we will push them. It’s a process.
“For some, it’s faster and others slower. But we will never lose patience and as long as they are Chelsea players they get full support.”
One Chelsea star who will be hoping for more support from Tuchel before the campaign comes to an end is Tammy Abraham.
The England international remains the Blues’ joint top scorer this season with 12 goals, but has made only two substitute appearances since February.
Reports have emerged over the past week that Chelsea could be willing to cash in on the academy graduate for around £40million this summer.
Tuchel did not have a “message” for any interested club in Abraham when speaking to the media this afternoon and admitted the 23-year-old could lead his attack against Manchester City tomorrow.
He said: “I have no message. I don’t get involved with messages to other clubs trying to sign our players. He is my player and as long as he has a contract and is out on the training pitch at Cobham he gets full support. Especially from me.
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“Is it the game for him? He needs to fully deserve it, to be absolutely ready, it’s another chance for him to prove. I have not made my mind up yet. I have some thinking to do.
“He has a chance, if he gets it from the start or from the bench, we will see. If we had more than three changes it would give us a chance to use more offensive players.
“There is not only Tammy waiting desperately to come on the pitch. Whoever it is for this game needs to prove it.”