Manchester: Kevin De Bruyne is second only to Lionel Messi, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said on Saturday after the Belgian inspired his team to a 4-0 win over Bournemouth.
Bruyne put the Premier League leaders ahead with a clever 15th-minute free-kick beneath the defensive wall and also played a part in goals for Kelechi Iheanacho, Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan.
Guardiola won a glut of trophies with Messi during their time together at Barcelona and in his eyes, the Argentina superstar is the only player who can put De Bruyne in the shade.
“Maybe Messi can sit alone at the table. But that table aside, Kevin can stay there,” Guardiola told reporters at the Etihad Stadium.
“I think he’s a special player, an outstanding player. He makes everything. Without the ball he is the first fighter and with the ball he’s clear. He sees absolutely everything.
“He decides what you have to do at the right moment every time. Every time he makes the right decision. That’s why he is a player at another level.
“I am lucky and we are lucky to have him. We will take care of him and I hope he will enjoy it with us to play his amazing football.”
De Bruyne, 25, was the man of the match in City’s 2-1 win at derby rivals Manchester United last weekend, scoring their opening goal and helping tee up Iheanacho for what proved to be the winner.
The Belgium international has now scored 18 goals and provided 16 assists for City in 48 appearances.
Despite Manchester City’s outstanding start to the season, Guardiola is refusing to get carried away and insists maintaining it will not be easy.
“Numbers are numbers. One record will be for another person to beat,” said Guardiola.
“The important thing is we won a game after a Champions League game. We had three days to prepare and when you play in the Champions League those games are so demanding.
“I am happy. We have won five games in the Premier League.
“In our world with social media it’s better to stay back and don’t read and don’t listen too much.
“I know we are going to lose games and when that happens it’s important to be stable like we are stable now.
“When we win we are so happy, our training sessions are better and the people laugh more but we know that still we have a lot of things to get better.”
Guardiola said that the season had barely got underway and he had had enough warning before arriving at how tough a title it is to win.
“We are in September. It’s nothing. We have played absolutely nothing,” said the 45-year-old Spaniard.
“I have heard from a long time ago that the Premier League is the toughest ever so I’m not going to accept now it’s so easy.”
Bournemouth’s third league loss of the season made it a tough full debut for on-loan Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere.
But manager Eddie Howe claimed it was an unfair performance by which to judge the England international.
“It was difficult for Jack. We want to see Jack in the final third to use his best qualities,” said Howe.
“That was impossible today but when he can do that gets used to the way we play he will be a very good player for us.
“It was a difficult day for us. Our plan wasn’t to sit as deep in the first half but we ended up getting trapped.
“They were better than us but I’m disappointed with our performance. You have to give them credit for the way they played but we can do better,” added the 38-year-old Englishman.